The opening Future Lab session in Berlin saw Josep Estiarte of Bloom Fresh talk about sustainability, health and taste in the breeding process

Josep Estiarte, the recently appointed interim CEO at Bloom Fresh, was the first speaker on the Future Lab stage at Fruit Logistica 2024, offering visitors a presentation on the future of breeding.

Josep Estiarte FL 2024 Future Lab

Josep Estiarte

Estiarte offered an overview of Bloom Fresh, which was formed in August 2023 when AMFresh Group, EQT Future and Paine Schwartz Partners completed the acquisition of International Fruit Genetics (IFG), merging it into SNFL Group.

The two breeding companies now operate under a united corporate identity, Bloom Fresh International, with a global footprint spanning 24 countries.

Bloom Fresh is operating in the table grape and cherry segments, as well as raisins, he said.

One of the key areas the company focused on was its innovation centres and trial sites, Estiarte emphasised, currently covering 80ha across nine countries – Spain, the US, Peru, Chile, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Italy.

”This gives opportunities for us to trial and develop local protocols for varieties in those territories,” he said. ”In the past, we used to develop the varieties in California and Spain and we expected those to perform the same in all the other territories. We went through a lot of bad times, the varieties did not perform and we exposed the growers, so we decided to change the approach. We invested in these other areas to develop protocols adapted 100 per cent to those industries.”

Bloom Fresh had four core breeding objectives, he continued, namely year-round access, flavour revolution, advancing sustainability and health.

Achieving this was a numbers game, and the more hybrids you developed, the greater chance of introducing the traits you were striving for to create improved varieties, Estiarte explained.

Flavour revolution

Taste is ever-more important when it comes to enticing consumers, and table grapes is seen as a category with great potential in this area.

”We believe there is an opportunity to continue developing unique flavours,” he said. ”The nice thing about table grapes is that they are diverse product. By mixing different species from different origins, it allows you to develop flavours that do not already exist.

“When we look at market research, it shows that the consumer is telling us the most important thing is the eating experience, I call it the organoleptic experience. It is not just about flavour, it is also about texture, it is the whole experience.

“This is not about competing against other categories, it is about attracting new consumers to grapes,” said Estiarte.

Sustainability was an important consideration when breeding, he told attendees, particularly given the volume of fungicides and pesticides table grapes depended on.

As a result, the Bloom Fresh programme was focusing on naturally resistant varieties, especially when it came to powdery mildew and downey mildew.

The health aspects of table grapes also need highlighting, Estiarte said, with the company carrying out a research and development project on breeding red-fleshed varieties with high antioxidant content.

”We expect the first semi-commercial launch in 2025 as we are planting now, so June, July, August, September 2025 is when we expect to see product on the shelves,” he added. “We are looking mainly at the UK and US markets.”

Click here to watch a full recording of the session at Fruit Logistica in Berlin (registration required)