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Italy: Opal golden apples

"It is apples themselves that suggest what can be done with them. This is how we built Opal®'s identity," explains Michael Weber, Managing Director of the new club.

"Opal is a variety of yellow apples that do not brown and are suitable for making juice. But developing a variety from a commercial point of view requires a lot of time and we need to be patient."

Michael Weber

A peculiar story
The development of Opal apples (cultivar UEB 32642 - Golden Delicious x Topaz) started in Czech Republic during the years of the "iron curtain". The country needed to be self-sufficient as it couldn't buy anything from abroad.
In order to find a source of vitamin C, normally supplied by citrus fruit that could not be cultivated at a local level, local breeders developed an apple with the same anti-oxidant content of oranges. That is precisely why Opal apples do not turn brown after being sliced.

The Opal stand at Interpoma 2016.

"The original creator died this year at 86."
The plant is vigorous, resistant to scab and tolerant to fire blight. Apples are harvested after Golden Delicious and before Braeburn.

A surprise for consumers
Introducing a new yellow apple on the European market, where Golden Delicious has always been a model, is the hardest thing. In Great Britain, however, Opel apples were successful as consumers are less tied to Golden apples.

A few tests carried out in the UK revealed how the 'old-fashioned' appearance of these apples was associated with negative aspects such as short shelf-life, flouriness and a flat flavour. "When consumers tried them, though, they were pleasantly surprised and the feedback was very encouraging."

"This is why we thought of making Opal apples stand out by creating a separate category. But a brand only works if it influences choices. Our objective is to conquer 3% of the Golden market in Europe. Italy is a very important partner for us, just like San Lucar, which chose our apples to make fruit juice."

Fresh and processed apples (juice produced by San Lucar).

Opal® Italian partners
Opal apples are currently cultivated in small orchards in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile. Consorzio La Trentina and Ortofruit Italia have been recently added to the international programme.

Simone Pilati, General Director of Consorzio de La Trentina, said that he does not think "choosing a yellow apple is engaging in a countertrend. What counts is meeting consumer demands. When consumers buy something out of curiosity, they go back to it if the experience was positive. Opal apples are perfect for this." 

A "golden" apple, not a yellow apple
In this phase of varietal innovation, it appears that there is a rediscovery of the colour yellow. Opal's managing director stresses that the brand identified a different category, that of golden apples.

"We would like to stimulate all five senses with this apple - sight, as Opal do not turn brown; touch, as these apples need to be harvested and packaged with great attention; hearing, as they are very crunchy; smell, because a crate of apples has an aroma that takes us back to our youth, and taste, thanks to its hints of quince, pear and mango."

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