Making a Quality Difference With Apples on the Retail Shelf
01 January 2017
It is the season when lots of delicious apples hit the supermarket shelves. Apples are “the original fruit” of Northern Europe, with every country having its own unique old varieties. Long before berries and bananas became popular people ate apples.
There are still dozens of old apple varieties that are produced and sold locally in Northern Europe; from the Åkerö variety in Sweden to Goudreinette in Holland. Over the last 10 years numerous new varieties have entered the market, all fine-tuned to match the taste preferences of the modern consumer.
Many people often talk about apples and pears as a joint category, but from a consumer use and quality perspective apples and pears are very distinctive. You literally can can’t compare “apples with pears”. It’s important to finetune the apple category based on quality and taste profiles.
We went to a fruit farm in Herefordshire in the UK to see how they grow top quality apples. Speaking to Jake Simpson, owner of Chicory Crops Ltd, who supplies his apples to three supermarkets in the UK.
They begin to prune the apples in Spring, to shape the tree in a way to let as much light in as possible. This will help the fruit grow to the best it can. They thin down the number of apples on the tree to get an optimum size of apple, between 65-80mm. The fruit then undergoes a spray programme to prevent insect and fungal issues. They irrigate and fertigate through the water in the field to help the apples grow to a high quality.
Just before picking, the team will go into the fields and summer prune the apple trees. This involves pulling some of the one year growth away to let more light in. Once all of these processes have taken place, they will pick the apples to a specification.
Before picking the apples they go out to the field to take samples. By slicing the apple in half and putting iodine allows them to see how much starch has moved to sugar.
It is really important to have these quality measures in place at the farms.