New fruit applications: UK supermarket on a flavor mission


11 Sep 2017 --- UK supermarket, Asda, are on a mission to increase fruit consumption, by launching new varieties of candy flavored fruits and not just children – sweet-toothed Brits up are going wild for candy flavored fruit. Asda is currently going through an innovative phase of fruit growing where growers able to naturally develop different varieties and bring something new and interesting for Asda customers to try.

Proving a hit in previous years, Asda has released the new bumper-sized packs for kids to enjoy this summer and expects over 550,000 to fly off the shelves between now and mid-September, four times as many as last year. They taste like the real deal but are packed with the same goodness ordinary plum or grape packs. 

To satisfy a surge in demand during the school holidays, Asda has launched extra-large limited edition packs of its delicious Candy Floss flavor seedless grapes for £1.75 (US$2.30) and bubble-gum Flavor King plums priced at £2.00 (US$2.63), both 400g packs. Producing the all-natural flavor of the grapes is the life’s work of artisan fruit growers across the world in hot climates and they meticulously use soft brushes to cross pollen from different grape varieties. 

Alberto Goldbacher, Asda's grape and stone fruit expert, commented: “This year we’ve worked even closer with fruit farmers across the world, in Spain, Brazil, Mexico and California, to source a bumper crop of these rare and delicious fruits over the summer. We know how much the Asda customer loves the candy flavors they pack in so we’re delighted we can offer more to enjoy.” 
The flavor of the Candy Floss grapes comes so close to the taste of cotton candy they could be twirled on a stick. The natural sweetness of the bubble-gum plums won’t burst any bubbles, they’re as juicy as a giant gobstopper, but won’t hang about in the fruit bowl for long.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Goldbacher said: “I think it is the surprise at the unexpected flavor and as people are constantly looking for different and healthy food, as the volume increases and they are starting to be sold at more accessible prices, they are moving from niche to the mainstream. I think it still surprises people how much the grapes do taste like the name. As you open the pack the Cotton Candy does have the aroma of Candy Floss.”

“Customers have loved these varieties – the feedback has been really positive and we are seeing sales grow each week. The different flavors make an interesting opportunity to bring new customers in who wouldn’t normally think of grapes as an appealing snack.”
What processes are involved with getting these new flavors into fruit? “People are basically deliberately cross pollinating one variety with another within the species group i.e. grapes or Stone Fruit.  This is done by plant breeders in a variety of ways which could be, for example, taking pollen from one variety and applying it to another,” he explains. “There are certain characteristics linked to the male parts of the plant and some of the female parts such as color, flavor, texture, and so on, so by careful selection of which varieties they are naturally crossing it is possible to enhance a specific characteristic. This can be hit and miss which is why some plant breeders devote their whole lives to this process and if they achieve one variety that becomes mainstream they will have felt it has been a total success.”

Any flavors resulting from breeding and tasting similar to other fruit types is a matter of scientific hybrid selection and expertise,  and not an infusion, genetic manipulation/modification or any other “technique” to alter the grape Genus. Flavor King plums are a combination of apricot and plum. There are a series of plum and apricot crosses called Pluots. These can have very different flavors and internal and external appearances.

“The grape buying team at Asda visits these breeders’ trial farms in California, Spain and other parts of the world to choose varieties to recommend to their growers around the world to produce,” he adds. 
According to Goldbacher, Asda is trying to ensure we are at the forefront of new varietal development by sourcing exciting flavors and quality that keeps the supermarket in the forefront. “We are trying to make sure we delight the customers every time and get people thinking about these products as a healthy snack or treat for individuals and families.”
“Our expectation was that it would appeal to children but these profiles appeal to all,” he continues, “There was a concern that they could be a fad that people liked the first time and then slowly peter out but seeing the consistent and strong sales growth and that demand continues to out strip supply, they are clearly here to stay and will become a part of our everyday grape offer.” 
Due to seasonality, the grapes are available for only five to six weeks. Goldbacher notes: “We import grapes from 13 countries to give a twelve month supply calendar and sometimes the production is in several areas and at several altitudes to ensure we have a seamless supply.”

These varieties of Candy Floss Grapes are currently grown in the US, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Peru and Brazil. 

“As these areas come on stream and new areas develop we expect to have greater supply and increase the weeks we have these varieties available. Flavor King's main production is in South Africa, Spain and France as this is a very complicated variety to grow it takes a lot of expertise and risk.  These varieties are in the hands of a limited number of growers and as there is a good demand across the world demand is still out stripping supply,” he notes. 

The fruit market is constantly looking for innovation and it was only 10 – 15 years ago that seedless grapes were not available all year. “Now the focus is on quirky flavor profiles,” claims Goldbacher. “When it comes to the level of flavor the variety is undoubtedly important but the growing expertise and conditions play a very large part in achieving; sugar levels, size, texture and appearance but the possibilities are limitless. It will continue to evolve to meet the customer desires and demands in terms of flavor and quality while also helping farmers to achieve a sustainable production.”
Are there any plans for further developments in the flavored fruits area? “There are literally hundreds of new varieties being mooted by various plant breeding companies around the globe,” Goldbacher finalizes, “Competition is fierce to get the next unique variety to market.” Watch this space! 

By Elizabeth Green

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