SweeTango apple rolls out across Europe

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SweeTango apple rolls out across Europe

With production and popularity of the SweeTango apple rapidly growing in North America, commercial plantings are now also gathering steam across Europe. 

The first commercial harvest of SweeTango in Europe

The first commercial harvest of SweeTango in Europe

The variety, a cross of Honeycrisp and Zestar apples, was developed by the University of Minnesota, and over recent years various trial and commercial plantations have been established in countries spanning the continent.

University of Minnesota operations director Tom Hutton told www.freshfruitportal.com the Minneiska trees had been supplied to a number of major apple producer-marketers 'from Spain to Scandinavia'.

"These groups are in the process of completing a three to four-year evaluation period to determine the suitability of growing the variety under their environmental conditions," he said.

"At the conclusion of the testing period they may be eligible to be licensed for commercial production. Presently we have licensed three commercial groups with others in negotiations and several new groups expressing interest in beginning testing."

He said 'strong growth with moderate volume' was expected over the next decade or so, as the variety is believed to fill a 'unique and important niche' in the early part of the season.

Commercial licenses have so far been granted to companies in Italy, Austria and Switzerland, but currently the fruit has only been sold in the latter through the variety's exclusive Swiss marketer, Geiser Agro.

Geiser Agro's fruit division manager Jurg Burri said the test trees were first planted in 2012 followed by commercial plantings two years later. 

Geiser Agro's fruit division manager Jurg Burri (right) with one of the company's main growers

Geiser Agro's fruit division manager Jurg Burri (right) with one of the company's main growers

"We are working together with the University of Minnesota on a concept and they have different partners identified already in Europe," he said. 

So far 23 hectares of orchards have been planted in Switzerland. Next year the last batch of seven hectares will be planted, reaching the target of 30 hectares in the country. 

According to Burri, the variety has been bred to withstand very cold temperatures, but good results have also been achieved in warmer growing regions. 

Around 130 metric tons (MT) of the fruit was sold on the Swiss market last season, but Burri expected the figure to rise up to 1,000MT by the time the orchards reach full production.

He also believed the variety had strong potential across the continent in the future, and said around 300 hectares were expected be planted in different European countries over the next five years.

"With SweeTango we bring an outstanding new apple to the market, reaching new levels in taste and crunch," he said.

He also highlighted the early harvest time of around mid-August, allowing SweeTango to be marketed before any other premium variety and also well before Gala.

"The market is dry at this stage with only few apple varieties. That is one of the keys for the success of SweeTango," he said.

Another of the variety's key attribute he mentioned was the 'extraordinary taste and extreme crunch'. "SweeTango" apple

"The fruit has quite large cells and the flesh comes off easily and releasing lots of juice when taking a bite. Together with its balanced flavors this makes the apple extremely refreshing. A new sensation of eating an apple," he said.

Expectations are high for the future, and so far Burri said the consumer response had been 'very positive'.

"We have launched many other new varieties, some have been very successful, some of them less, but with SweeTango we’ve had extremely positive responses right from the start," he said

"Certainly it is important to raise the consumer’s awareness of this new apple variety, so we conduct lots of in-store tastings. Once they tasted it they always come back."

As for the future marketing strategy, the representative said the variety would likely be promoted as a seasonal product rather than a year-round one.

"We can take the apricot season in Switzerland as an example. Once the harvest comes close everybody waits for the moment they can start buying this nice and tasty fruit in the supermarkets. And after some months the season is over until the next year to come.

"SweeTango will also be a seasonal product, starting in August and ending around November."

In the U.S., around 450,000 40-pound boxes of SweeTangos are expected be produced this year, up from 380,000 boxes in 2015.



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