For decades it has been one of the most popular apples in the world, but now it’s crunch time for Australia’s Pink Lady as Britain launches a blushing rival.
The Flanders Pink goes on sale within weeks and it will be the first pink-skinned variety grown on a commercial scale in this country.
Its creation is a belated response to the success of the sweet, crunchy Pink Lady – a cross between Lady Williams and Golden Delicious – which was bred in Western Australia in the early 1970s and reached these shores two decades later.
Flanders Pink, from leading grower AC Goatham, is named after its own Flanders Farm in Hoo, Kent. Bosses Clive Goatham and his son Ross worked with a Dutch breeder to develop the new apple and have been holding secret trials for several years.
With initial results looking promising, new orchards of Flanders Pink were quietly planted three years ago on 25 farms near Sittingbourne.
Carol Ford, AC Goatham’s commercial director, said: ‘Flanders Pink has scored highly in the all-important consumer taste tests as well as being suitable to grow in the UK’s damp climate. It also harvests and stores well – vital for the modern apple varieties so they reach consumers in the very best condition.’
The company, which supplies 350 million apples a year – a quarter of the British crop – also hopes the new variety will help boost the country’s self-sufficiency.
Only 43 per cent of apples eaten in Britain are grown here, but the industry aims to reach 60 per cent by 2030. Every year, the UK produces 297,000 tons of apples, according to industry group British Apples & Pears, but annual imports have risen to 389,000 tons.
The Flanders Pink will aim to bite into the lucrative market for Pink Lady apples, which are the second most popular in Britain behind the Royal Gala.
The industry will be hoping for a boost after last week’s report in The Mail on Sunday that millions of apples are rotting in orchards due to a shortage of pickers from Eastern Europe.
Fears over Brexit and a fall in the value of the pound means that EU workers have been put off coming to Britain, resulting in at least 16 million apples left unpicked.