South African-bred variety Bigbucks and its Flash Gala brand are changing the apple sector in South Africa

Game-changing varieties are not often found in the apple and pear category but Bigbucks – branded as Flash Gala – is on track to achieve just that for the South African apple industry.

Flash Gala was first discovered in a Corder Gala orchard at the iconic Elgin apple estate, Oak Valley by industry personality Buks Nel. Along with the other Gala types already planted and exported from South Africa for many years, it has helped to propel the Gala category into the top of the country’s apple industry.

However, Flash Gala is now being marketed as a distinct Gala offering because of its unique quality of colour and taste. It has again received great reviews following marketing and promotional campaigns for South African apples and pears in China and India this year.

Sachin Khurana, South Africa’s apple and pear industry representative in India, said interest in Flash Gala has been strong.

“Several buyers have highlighted the quality, which is a good sign. Our reception in March for the Indian trade was very successful and we got a lot of interest from the attendees. We now see a very strong demand for our product from all sectors,” said Khurana.

At the ’home of the variety Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen of Oak Valley Estates – one of the holders of the Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) to Bigbucks and Flash Gala – said the Indian market has been of particular interest as the variety has drawn widespread attention from local growers and marketers.

“We continue to promote the Flash Gala brand in the markets of the world using fruit grown in, and exported from, South Africa. The commercialisation of the variety is done under the authority of ABCz Nursery in Belgium, who are the master licensees worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa the company Pink Vein manages the process,” said Rawbone-Viljoen.

Oak Valley Estates is very much in the centre of the Western Cape apple region where the industry was first started by pioneers such as Sir Antony Viljoen, grandfather of Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen, as well as the likes of Harry Blackburn and the Molteno brothers. The emergence and dramatic growth in plantings of Flash Gala is a historic milestone for the South African industry because for the first-time traditional offerings in the red apple category and Golden Delicious have been passed in terms of total apple production.

Viljoen said Bigbucks is in the process of being established in the EU, the US where Plant Patent Rights have been granted, and in Australia. Plant breeders’ rights for the variety are still pending in China, New Zealand, Chile, and India.

Rawbone-Viljoen said Bigbucks was the ideal fit for the Indian market from multiple perspectives.

“A modernisation process for orchard plantings has been underway in recent times, led by the Italians who have been supplying rooted trees of modern cultivars to India,” explained Rawbone-Viljoen.

“The proven ability of Bigbucks to develop exceptional colour in warmer areas should create an opportunity for the expansion of the variety in that country where the consumer preferences are for red and sweet apples, making Flash Gala the perfect fit for this market.”

Although Bigbucks and the Flash Gala brand are making waves and plantings in South Africa have progressed rapidly in recent years, it is likely that plantings will slow down somewhat in tough economic times. As a category, however, it has helped Galas take center stage in South Africa.