30 August 2019

Over 1,800 hectares of investments in new varieties are planned in the course of the next five years. The Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Braeburn areas will be reduced. Over 300 new hectares already in the transition phase will be dedicated to organic farming.

Over 10,000 hectares of apple trees are cultivated by the almost 5,000 producers associated with the VOG Consortium. These farms, which are mostly family-run, have an average of a few hectares and their profitability is determined by their choice of variety.
Until a few years ago, Golden Delicious still accounted for over 25% of the harvest. Now, for the first time, forecasts for autumn 2019 predict that Royal Gala will reach the top spot in the ranking, bringing Golden Delicious down to second place.
The season that has just ended showed that the abundant supply of Italian Golden Delicious struggles in traditional markets such as Italy and Spain, which are already saturated. And new end markets, such as India and South East Asia, prefer – both due to tradition and in terms of flavour – other varieties.
Hence the need to courageously continue with the variety innovation projects that began in the late ’90s with the introduction of Royal Gala and then Fuji, followed in the early years of the new millennium with major investment in the first “club apple”, Pink Lady®. Other varieties have followed in recent years such as Kanzi®, Jazz™ and envy™, all characterized by excellent sensory features, crispiness and juiciness: the characteristics required by today’s modern consumer.
For the next five years, the VOG Consortium’s “Varietal Innovation 2025” strategic project offers associated farmers the opportunity to take part in new variety projects covering a total of 1,800 hectares, partly divided into already established projects and partly into completely new projects.
With regard to the consolidated projects, investment is planned in Club apples that are already considered successful, such as a further 120 hectares of Pink Lady®, 140 additional hectares of envy™, 80 hectares of Shinano Gold/yello®, 150 hectares of Crimson Snow®, 120 hectares of Joya® and finally 30 hectares of Sweetango®. All these varieties will cover different months in the seasonal marketing plan. For example, the Minneiska variety, marketed under the name Sweetango® and originally from Minnesota (USA), is an early variety harvested from early August, which will accompany the first Royal Gala harvested in August and September. By contrast, Joya® and Crimson Snow®, red and two-tone apples, are planned for the second half of the season to accompany Golden Delicious in the months from April to July: a viable alternative to imported apples.
Additionally, VOG offers members the launch of certain new varieties for which it exclusively holds the rights in Europe, managed together with the VI.P. Consortium.
These are three new managed varieties, apples with variety protection that will be marketed with a specific brand. The first of these is Cosmic Crisp, the apple that is revolutionizing the United States market, where Red Delicious consumption has plummeted, a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp, the most popular and sought-after variety in the USA.
The other two varieties, which are still in the design phase, are referred to as SK 22 and SK 23: both are resistant to scab and have shelf life and robustness properties that will allow them to hold up in the second half of the sales season and to reach distant overseas destinations.
This last characteristic is becoming increasingly strategic for the Consortium. In order to reach new overseas markets, involving 4-week container journeys and on-site distribution without a guaranteed cold chain, impeccable product quality is key to success and it is this characteristic that the two new varieties guarantee.
The European and overseas markets require diversification, as well as new and better sensory characteristics, which the VOG project’s new cultivars can guarantee.
Hence the Consortium’s conviction to face the future with an ambitious varietal innovation project that will profoundly change its portfolio over the next five years. Almost 2,000 hectares of trees have been newly planted, resulting in the removal of trees that are too old or obsolete clones. Golden, which has dominated our harvests for decades, will decrease from a 25% share of the dedicated area to a 15% share, and the number of Red Delicious and Braeburn trees will also be reduced. By contrast, Royal Gala’s share of almost 25% of the harvest should be confirmed at the current level.
The European apple market is experiencing a structural overproduction crisis due to huge investment in thousands of hectares in Eastern Europe that have not yet entered full production. These apples have already arrived on the European and Mediterranean markets and will lead to fierce competition in regard to the prices of classic varieties in the future. Consequently, VOG has presented its producers with a strategic variety plan that will enable their apples to stand out on the market, ensuring that their output remains sustainable and guaranteeing their future.

VOG-Marlene Press Office

Read more: