Good Fruit Grower

August 2013

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s tre e rui t oF Br an dt 's F Co ur te sy to o Ph Red-fleshed apples, such as Bill Howell's TC3, will have to deliver on flavor as well as the novelty of the flesh color and enhanced nutrient value, says Stemilt's marketing director Roger Pepperl. Initially, just two growing and marketing companies, Chelan Fresh of Chelan, Washington, and Stemilt Growers, Inc., of Wenatchee, Washington, have been licensed to grow and sell the red-fleshed varieties, but it won't be a club system with restricted production. If the varieties are successful, it will take more than the two companies to meet the demand, Reeves believes. "We do not believe in club varieties," he stressed. "Our mission is to make sure we take care of the breeder— we're doing the commercialization for them. What we want to do then is get a very focused marketing campaign working with a few people, and then open it up." Value The two initial partners will be given time to recoup their investment. Then the system will operate somewhat like Pink Lady, where anyone can grow the variety as long as they sign a contract and follow certain rules. "Our whole goal is to develop the most value in that entire value chain," Reeves said. Stemilt Growers, on its part, is not limiting itself to Howell's varieties. The company has been testing other red-fleshed varieties developed by Markus Kobelt of Lubera nursery in Switzerland. Stemilt is also part of the Next Big Thing cooperative based in Minnesota, which has joined a European consortium IFORED. The consortium was established in 2012 to test, select, and commercialize red-fleshed apples developed by International Fruit Obtention with the goal of bringing them to market within five years. Next Big Thing members planted the first of several red-fleshed apple selections this spring. Roger Pepperl, Stemilt's marketing director, said the company is still a long way from commercializing a redfleshed variety. He thinks the concept shows promise but the novelty of the red flesh is not enough. "If there's one thing we've learned in the produce business, it's that it's got to be good to be sustainable." Pepperl said red-fleshed varieties have three potential differentiating qualities: red flesh, a unique flavor, and enhanced nutrient content resulting from the antioxidants (anthocyanins) in the red flesh, but they must also give consumers a good eating experience. Because of their heritage, red-fleshed apples tend to have high acid levels, but high acids can be a positive attribute as long as they're balanced with high sugars. "I like that I get hit on both sides of my palate," Pepperl said, referring to apples such as Piñata that have a sweet tangy flavor. In contrast, Fuji is a sweet apple that has low acids and lacks a lingering taste. "I like Fuji," he said, "but after I eat it, 15 minutes later I forget I ate it." • GOOD FRUIT GROWER AUGUST 2013 13

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