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Lady in Red is one of several highly colored strains of Cripps Pink that will be marketed as Pink Lady. Lady in Red will be the variety name marked on the shipping cartons

Lady in Red is one of several highly colored strains of Cripps Pink that will be marketed as Pink Lady. Lady in Red will be the variety name marked on the shipping cartons

Photo courtesy Coregeo

About half the Cripps Pink apples being planted worldwide are new, improved mutations, which could help expand production of the variety.

Cripps Pink, which was bred in Western Australia, was introduced to the market in 1990. Over the past 15 years, a number of mutations of the Cripps Pink apple have been discovered in growers’ orchards. Rosy Glow, a highly colored strain of Cripps Pink, was discovered in South Australia in 1997 and commercialized after several years of testing.

Several more mutations have been discovered. Most are more highly colored than the original, but a couple mature earlier, and one is a spur type.

Better-coloring strains offer the potential of higher packouts overall and better fruit color in hotter growing areas. Cripps Pink is one of the latest-maturing commercial ­varieties, so the earlier-maturing strains should expand the regions where Cripps Pink can be grown without fear of losing the crop to early winter freezes.

Growers can obtain licenses to market the apples under the Pink Lady trademark if the fruit meets certain standards.

The Cripps Pink mutations are the property of the ­people who discover them, but Apple and Pear Australia Limited, which owns the Pink Lady trademark in more than 70 countries, is working to ensure that these discoveries are marketed as Pink Lady rather than as distinct varieties.

For the owners of the mutations, it’s probably more beneficial to market them under the established Pink Lady brand than to try to promote them in a crowded marketplace as new varieties, said Garry Langford, manager of Coregeo, the division of APAL that manages the trademark. And, ­Langford says, there’s been so much money invested in developing the Pink Lady brand, and so much fruit marketed under the brand, that it has good consumer ­recognition.

“I think there’s significant value in the brand. If you’re trying to introduce a new variety in today’s world and have to do it alone, it’s a lot more scary than working with an existing model,” he added.

Approval

Rosy Glow and another highly colored mutation, Lady In Red, which was discovered in New Zealand, have both received approval from APAL to use the Pink Lady ­trademark on fruit that meets the Pink Lady standards.

Four more new strains have been evaluated and are going through the approval process, which involves obtaining plant breeders’ rights protection. These include the spur-type Pink Belle (a mutation discovered in Donnybrook, Western Australia, which has a more compact growth habit) and the early maturing Maslin (an Australian mutation that matures three to four weeks earlier than the standard Cripps Pink).

Langford said three more new strains are not so far along. They are undergoing independent taste tests to ensure that they fit within the taste parameters for Pink Lady and that the eating quality will meet consumer’s expectations.

In fact, consumers are unlikely to notice any difference between the new strains and the original, Langford said. Typically, new strains are the same pinkish-red color, but might be colored over a greater area. To be sold as Pink Lady, an apple must have 40 percent red color, but a retailer might demand 60 percent. Higher-colored strains should simply mean that a higher percentage of a grower’s crop is marketable.

Cripps Pink is owned by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, which bred the variety. Though Pink Lady is a managed program, it does not operate like a club, Langford pointed out. Growers who plant Cripps Pink simply pay a royalty on the nursery trees. Selling it as Pink Lady is an option. Currently, 450,000 tons of Cripps Pink are produced worldwide (not including China), of which 325,000 tons are sold as Pink Lady.

Partly as a result of the improved mutations, production of the variety is expected to expand. It is projected to grow from 2.1 percent of global production now to 2.3 percent by the end of the decade.

Plantings of Cripps Pink are not capped, but Langford said the agreements made with the owners of the new mutations allow Apple and Pear Australia to introduce what he calls “planting disciplines” should it become ­necessary to regulate production.

In most parts of the world, a royalty, equivalent to about 77 euros per ton, is charged for using the Pink Lady trademark. U.S. growers only pay that fee if they export the fruit.

Langford said 60 percent of the money from royalties is spent on marketing the Pink Lady brand, with the rest going to protecting the intellectual property, management of licenses, and new product and market ­development.

In Europe alone, more than 10 million euros are spent each year on marketing the brand. Andy McDonald, managing director of Coregeo in the United Kingdom, said that in 2011, Pink Lady sold at an average retail price of the equivalent of $3.99 a pound, versus $2.28 a pound for Cripps Pink.

The aim is to have everyone benefit from the investment in marketing through premium prices, Langford said. “Our aim is to make sure that that premium always delivers benefits to all those in the system, whether they’re grower, packer, importer, or retailer, and still gives everybody a margin.”

The United Kingdom, which does not produce the variety, imports 3 million boxes of Cripps Pink/Pink Lady annually. Major suppliers are France, Spain, Italy, South Africa, and Brazil. Imports from the United States fell from about 525,00 boxes in 2009 to less than 180,000 boxes in 2011, mainly because European markets do not accept fruit treated with wax containing morpholine.

The Pink Lady brand has been established in China through importers, Langford said, and it is likely that one of the mutations of Cripps Pink that has plant breeders’ rights will be planted in China. Cripps Pink is already planted there.