Blue Whale is widening its range of organic apples as demand for organic produce increases across Europe.
The topfruit producer reported planned plantings of additional organic varieties to compliment its existing offer of branded varieties Delisdor and Dalinette, but declined from naming them at this stage.
The company’s extended organic range will mainly include varieties bred specifically for organic production rather than converting ones originally intended for conventional growing.
One of the producer’s existing varieties, Ariane les Naturianes, will also be adapted for organic production due, in part, to its strong scab resistance. It is likely to take three years before commercial volumes become available, but the producer is already exporting Delisdor and Dalinette to the UK in small volumes.
Commenting on the investment, export manager Sylvain Brard said: “At the moment there is not enough availability of the current organic apple varieties. There is lots of production in Gala and Pink Lady but we can’t grow them everywhere because of climate conditions and so on. If we stick to the conventional varieties we won’t be able to meet demand.”
In 2016 organic food sales grew by 7.1 per cent in the UK and by 20 per cent in France, with the sector edging towards the French mainstream. Brard believes that, without investment in new specific organic varieties, supply will not keep pace with rising demand.
The focus with Blue Whale’s new varieties will be on good eating quality rather than product appearance, with Brard predicting a shift in consumer purchasing behaviour in the coming years.
“At the moment the UK is very focussed on cosmetics but we believe that’s going to change – especially in organics,” he said. "We are not looking at the cosmetics but rather the eating quality. This means high flavour and high sugar content. It’s a different concept to what our competitors are doing, but it’s already working very well in other countries.”
Organics still account for less than five per cent of Blue Whale’s total sales but Brard says demand is growing.