U.K.: Marks & Spencer highlights "licorice" Dicolored pear
U.K. supermarket giant Marks & Spencer Group (LSE: MKS) has just launched a new fruit fusion pear variety that tastes of liqorice. Hitting the shelves as part of the retailer’s funky fruit range, the pears are grown in the U.K. after first being harvested by Czech farmers. At www.freshfruitportal.com, we asked M&S for a behind the scenes look at the extraordinary variety with an unusual taste that divides opinion.
The retailer continues its trend of 'barmy fruits' with the introduction of yellow-skinned pears that trick the taste buds with a distinctive flavor usually associated with confectionery, but not fresh fruit. But how do you get pears that taste like that?
"The Dicolor variety is grown on a post and wire system to maximize light interception. It is then harvested when the colour maturity parameters are met and target is for 25% good red blush," an M&S spokesperson said.
"When the pear is ripe, the volatiles and aromas from the flesh and skin combine to deliver a unique liqorice flavour. Yields are expected to be 30-40 metric tons (MT).The characteristics are typical for a pear, with a source of fibre being the main advantage. We are not aware of any other pears having a similar flavour profile."
Starting life in a small orchard in the Czech Republic, the pears caught the attention of a Belgium-based fruit nursery run by René Nicoleí, who introduced the variety to M&S around six years ago.
"We liked the unique flavor and blush appearance. At this stage Florent Geerdens (of René Nicoleí) had secured the rights for developing the variety and Worldwide Fruit decided to plant it on a small scale on several farms in the U.K.," the spokesperson said.
The supermarket chain already worked with Robert Hinge, a farmer based in south-east England who is a well-established grower of pears, cherries, plums, apples and apricots. It seemed a natural choice for the well-placed farm to be the primary grower of the new pear range.
"Robert Hinge's farm was selected because it is on the north Kent coastline which typically produces the best pears in the U.K. Robert is also a strategic grower for M&S so it was a good fit for Robert to be one of the first to grow the variety.
"A total of 850 trees are grown in the U.K. by five growers, 500 of these are on Robert Hinge’s farm and summer 2014 will be the second harvest. We will also be planting a further 1,500 trees this winter.
"The farm has supplied M&S for over 25 years and hopefully the relationship will continue for many years to come. Robert's son John has just graduated from agricultural university and has returned to the farm to help with the management.
A four-pack of the pears retails at £2 (US$3.28) and follows the British multinational’s weird and wonderful 'grango', a mango that tastes of grapes and the 'papple', an apple that resembles a pear.
According to an announcement released last week, M&S' U.K. sales were up slightly by 1.5% in the third quarter of 2013-14. The company reportedly launched 800 new products during Christmas.