Italy’s Kiku gears up to roll out new apple varieties

Italy’s Kiku gears up to roll out new apple varieties

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Kiku apple growing

Italy-headquartered apple breeder, grower and marketer Kiku is gearing up to launch two new varieties that have been developed with a focus on disease resistance so as to reduce pesticide application.

One of the varieties has red-flesh and will be sold under the Surprise Inside trademark, and the other one that will see its launch next month is described as very environmental friendly.

The company’s main product, Kiku apples, were first discovered in the early 1990s by Louis Braun who found them growing on a Fuji apple tree in a Japanese orchard.

A decade later, the family company was established and the sweet, ruby-red variety was rolled out globally.

There are now 26 marketing partnering worldwide selling collectively 25,000 metric tonnes (MT) annually, and the fruit is grown in a variety of regions including Europe, the U.S., Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.

Following international successful with the Fuji strain, other breeders wanted to bring their own varieties on board, and eventually Kiku Variety Management was founded.

Among the most successful brands managed by the entity are Crimson Snow, whose European production coverage is set to double to 600 hectares by 2020, and Isaaq, a snack-sized apple gaining strong traction.

Speaking to Produce Business UK, Kiku CEO and Louis Braun’s son, Dr. Jürgen Braun, said the Swing-branded apple would be the next to be released to growers, with the official launch set to take place at next month’s Fruit Logistica in Berlin.

Licences for the variety named Xeleven have already been granted to growers in Italy and France, according to Braun.

“There has been a big development in France in terms of technical and test orchards, and we’ve been testing this variety for almost 10 years now to find the right microclimates,” he said.

He said it was a “very nice piece of fruit” that was scab resistant and had low susceptibility to powdery mildew and aphids.

“For the resistant varieties in the past they have been okay, but rarely a nice piece of fruit. There were lots of people wanting organic apples but when they grew them there was lots of disappointment. Now with the new generation they’re really good,” he said.

“Now we are ready, we have a plan of 100 hectares of development as soon as possible, all in resistant blocks. We want to go in this direction and our vision is to try and have zero residues. Maybe it is an illusion, but let’s dream a bit.

“Today it is getting more and more important to reduce the chemical impact, and that is what we want to do. Yes, we want to serve a beautiful product to the consumer and we want the producers to earn some money, but at the end of the day it’s about the next generations as well.”

Red Moon apples

Another apple brand set to be launched shortly is the Red Moon, and will be sold under the Surprise Inside trademark. Like the Swing apples, it is also a highly resistant variety.

“This is getting more and more important for us, it’s a very exciting new product that creates curiosity among consumers,” Braun said.

“It also has a lot more vitamin C than most apples…but we want to focus more on the surprise aspect.

He said there was already a “long queue” of growers waiting for the release, which would happen “very soon”.

“In the past red-fleshed apple have often been very acidic, so it hasn’t always been a nice piece of fruit,” Braun said.

“Today with our ones and the new generations we can really talk about it. They’re nice pieces of fruit, and that’s the reason why us and others are starting now.”

Kiku has already planted 10 hectares of the fruit, and more are set to be planted, along with other varieties including Swing, in blocks covering 200 hectares near Venice.

“They’re about to be planted in the spring ahead. They will be planted near Venice, not too many people know about it but there is a nice apple production area,” he said.

“It’s all about testing, because every variety is so different. We always give out a handbook to licensed growers so they can avoid the mistakes that we make in the trials.”

Braun emphasised that with so much going on in the company and with so many people involved along the supply chain, it was important to create trust among those people, especially given retailers’ ever-increasing power.

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