New Chilean plum variety seeks to charm U.S. consumers
Breeders at the University of Chile have developed a new late harvest plum variety, which is currently on its third commercial mission.
Developed 100% in Chile, the “Sweet Pekeetah” ripens during the second half of February in the southern hemisphere.
The new cultivar stands out for its crunchy, juicy features with a very high level of sweetness. In addition, the variety has very characteristic "freckles" on its skin, hence "pekeetah".
It can also be found marketed as “Purple Honey”, again referencing its unique sweetness.
This is the first commercial product of the plum tree breeding program of the institution, and is being commercially developed in Chile by a group of 10 fresh fruit exporting companies.
“The Sweet Pekeetah has a great capacity for cold storage, perfectly resisting 45 - 50 days of storage at 0°C (32°F) without affecting its organoleptic quality,” Carolina Kusch, head of the Intellectual Property and Transfer Unit of the Laboratory of Genetic Improvement and Fruit Quality of the university, told FreshFruitportal.com.
According to Kusch, around 17 tons of the fruit have been shipped to the U.S. as of week 10.
Planted area for the Sweet Pekeetah is now close to 100 hectares, making it the second most planted plum tree variety in the last four years.
The third commercial export of 'Sweet Pekeetah' is currently underway, reaching to date about 1,300 tons of fruit mainly destined for China, which accounts for 92% of the shipped volume.
Chilean agroexporter company LaFrut is kicking off the season with a trial shipment of Sweet Pekeetah as the company works on “understanding the consumer's reception and seeing the feasibility of generating a differentiated segment to the current offer”.
Matías Alessandrini, of LaFrut’s commercial department, told FreshFruitPortal.com that, while the company is focusing on the Asian market this season, the U.S. remains a very attractive market for Chilean plums.
The executive said that, while exports this year were about two weeks ahead of last season, the trial container arrived in week 10. Thus, the firm is still waiting on feedback from consumers.
“We are working with a major U.S. retail chain, who have been very open to doing these tests to see the option of developing something different from what Chile has historically offered,” Alessandrini added.