NZ: Honey Belle pear having a ball in Asian markets
With early timing on its side, a crispy sweet flavor and a robust post-harvest performance, Freshmax's Honey Belle-trademarked pear continues to grow in popularity in Asia and the United States.
The pear brand is for the Belle de Jumet variety, which Freshmax export manager for pipfruit Greg Cassidy says has been grown in New Zealand for about 20 years.
"It is an early pear – we normally start picking in late January and ship through for about eight weeks into Asia, and the USA," Cassidy tells Fresh Fruit Portal.
"It would probably be 80% Asia due to the smaller size profile – obviously the USA does prefer larger sizes and it is a smaller pear, but it is ideal for snacking.
"It’s crisp, it’s sweet, it’s juicy and very low in acid – it’s just perfect for the Asian palate."
He says the biggest market would be Taiwan, followed by mainland China and Hong Kong.
"Then it would be Southeast Asia, but those countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are more price sensitive are dominated by South African pears.
"This is quite a premium pear, and is well suited to the premium markets like Taiwan and China where we are seeing growth year-on-year."
Aside from its positive eating characteristics, Cassidy also highlights the Honey Belle staying power for quality after harvest.
"That’s the beauty of this pear – it’s quite robust so it doesn’t scuff or mark; it can be loose packed," he says.
"So we’ll pack in a loose 10kg carton or in flow-wrap punnets, but it does handle very well and it’s got very good shelf life. That is why there’s quite strong demand for it because the customer or the consumer has confidence this pear will not mark or bruise very easily, and it will last.
"We also use Smartfresh after harvest to give it additional shelf life."
These are attributes that have led Freshmax to start looking at the possibility of growing in Australia as well, to build on the company's plantings of Honey Belle pears in New Zealand.
"Pears in general in New Zealand have probably reduced in volume over the years, and probably due to the rise of returns for apples.
"Pears do take longer for the tree to grow and produce, and a lot of pears – the standard varieties in New Zealand – have struggled I guess because a lot of the big sizes do well into the U.S. market, but there are fewer homes for the smaller sizes at profitable returns.
"Whereas the Honey Belle has done extremely well; it is a smallish pear, and it does go very well in Asia because of its crisp, sweet flavor profile, and it’s robustness. Some of the other pears don’t have very long shelf life."
Cassidy is also optimistic about another of Freshmax's own pears that are on the rise - Angelys.
He says the pear is an up-and-comer and it's slightly larger.
"We also grow it in Australia as well. It’s a Freshmax IP (intellectual property) variety variety and it has got good potential, but it's quite a new variety for us in some markets so we are still developing the brand. It’s got very strong uptick on the New Zealand domestic market as well as in the USA," he says.
"We do have the other varieties like Taylor’s Gold, Bosc, Packham and Comice, but in smaller volumes.
"Honey Belle is by far our biggest pear variety, and Freshmax as a group would probably export close to 60-70% of the pears out of New Zealand."