$27M Apple Variety Set to Hit Supermarket Shelves

Red Rich Fruits, one of Australia’s largest growers, has invested $27 million in the development of a new apple variety called the Cosmic Crisp, with hopes of reversing declining sales in the apple category. The company, which supplies major retailers like Woolworths, Coles, and Aldi, as well as independent IGA stores, has already planted 360,000 trees of the Cosmic Crisp and plans to introduce the apples to stores within the next year.

Matthew Palise, director of Red Rich Fruits, expressed optimism about the potential success of the Cosmic Crisp in Australia, citing its non-oxidizing properties, firmness, and juiciness. The apple market in the country has faced challenges due to strong competition from other snack options, leading to a decline in consumption from 16 kg per person per year two decades ago to 8.3 kg per person in the past 12 months.

The Pink Lady variety currently holds the largest market share in Australia, accounting for about 40 percent of apple sales. Woolworths reported steady consumer demand for apples, but acknowledged reduced availability due to unfavourable weather conditions, including hail in key regions before harvesting.

Apple and Pear Australia CEO Phil Turnbull acknowledged the expansion of snack options available to consumers, including bananas, mandarins, berries, avocados, mangoes, cherries, and yoghurt, but highlighted the high penetration rate of apple purchases, with 84 percent of Australian households still buying them. He emphasized the importance of introducing new apple varieties and implementing effective marketing strategies for the industry’s long-term growth.

Hort Innovation, an industry marketing body, reported a decline of 9 percent in the wholesale value of the Australian apple market in 2022 compared to the previous year, totalling $655 million. At the retail wholesale level, the decline was 10 percent, amounting to $568 million.

The Cosmic Crisp, a hybrid of the Honeycrisp and Enterprise varieties, was developed by Washington State University over a span of more than 20 years. Red Rich Fruits secured the rights to distribute the variety in Australia in 2019 and plans to plant a total of 560,000 Cosmic Crisp apple trees across its network of growers.

In the United States, where 20 million Cosmic Crisp apple trees have been planted, the variety has experienced significant sales growth. Nielsen data showed a 163 percent increase in sales for the Cosmic Crisp during the five-month period ending in January, making it one of the top ten popular apple varieties. However, the overall apple category in the US declined by 3.3 percent during the same period.

Red Rich Fruits, which generates approximately $150 million in annual revenue and deals with a range of products, including pears, stone fruits, and mangoes, aims to increase its revenue by 50 percent within five years. The company, founded by the Napoleone family in the Yarra Valley in 1948, also owns Punt Road Wines and Napoleone Cider. They have planned a $2 million marketing campaign to promote the Cosmic Crisp in Australia.

The Cosmic Crisp trees have been planted by 13 growers affiliated with Red Rich Fruits in various locations, including the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Batlow in New South Wales, and Manjimup in Western Australia.

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