Just over half way through the UK season of the yellow coloured Opal apple, supplies remain strong with robust volumes in long term storage and sales set to last until at least May.
Originating from a completely natural cross between the Golden Delicious apple and disease-resistant variety Topaz, Opal is a yellow/golden coloured apple that is gaining traction amongst UK consumers.
Known for its distinctive colour, sweet and tangy flavour, the variety also has natural non-browning superpowers, according to Rosemary Lalley, marketing director, Opal Apples UK. Although the season got off to a later than usual start last November due to weather conditions, supplies look good, she tells PBUK.
“Discussions continue as interest grows in what is a “stand out from the crowd” apple variety offering the consumer something really different that delivers great eating qualities on a consistent basis,” she says.
“Working with UK growers as well as our own orchards we have 45 hectares planted with a good geographical spread across Hampshire, Hereford, Norfolk, Essex and Kent. From small beginnings in our own orchards, Opal trees were sent out to growers as Christmas presents to build interest in this new apple variety.
“In 2009 we commenced with a small orchard of 2,000 trees, and to date there are approximately 136,000 trees being grown in UK soil.”
Kent now accounts for the largest plantation with 40% of trees, 26% in Hereford and 22% in Norfolk supported by smaller orchards in Essex (3%) and Hampshire (7%).
Further plantations are planned for 2019.
“Opal availability is meeting current customer demand and production is increasing to meet expected demand in the future,” adds Lalley.
“All Opal apples regardless of country of origin oxidise slowly when sliced therefore turn brown more slowly than many other apple varieties. This together with the crunchy texture and thin skin makes Opal the perfect apple for kids lunch boxes, salads and cocktails.”
Greenyard Fresh UK has the licence for the production and sale of Opal apples in the UK, while other international licensees source and trade Opal apples in mainland Europe and the US.
Standing out on the shelf of most high street retailers, British Opals are set apart because of their unique colouring, adds Lalley, as the job of converting shoppers to choose the distinctive apple over more traditional varieties continues to gather pace.
“Trials, tastings and testimonials has been key to converting shoppers to purchase Opal.
“In addition to sampling, social media has been a key growth area for communication with the use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest to run competitions with collaborative partnerships, talk about the brand and the activities we are undertaking.
“Opal has been involved with numerous food festivals including its annual British launch at the BBC Good Food Show in London where consumer feedback was extremely complimentary. Shoppers have had the opportunity to sample the fruit in store at fixture and point of purchase at various high street retailers across the country during the 2015 to 2017 seasons.
“The outstanding flavour is sweet, slightly aromatic, has a perfectly balanced sugar/ acid ratio, consistent crunch and texture throughout its natural shelf life.”
Opal even made a special guest appearance at the Oscar’s ceremony last week as part of the “Everyone Wins” nominee gift bags handed out on Hollywood’s biggest night of the year. The apples were given to nominees across the major acting and directing categories.