this apple has become a true worldwide phenomenon, the reasons?

This Pink Lady variety created in Australia has conquered the world thanks to careful marketing. In Europe, France is the main producer.

Installed on platforms, seasonal workers pick the last ripe Pink Lady fruits at a very constant rate. Each one must deposit 150 kilos per hour, which is equivalent to clearing a dozen trees.

Even though there was frost on April, the fruits are beautiful, colorful and fleshy, explains Philippe Chauvet, the owner of the farm. I’m going to get at least 70 cents a pound, which is 30-50% more than most other apples.

Pink Lady Award

This farmer can rejoice in front of his harvest of Pink Lady, one of the rare varieties that allows him to get ahead in business. Its sales have doubled in ten years and now it represents 8% of the market French in courage, unseating the granny smith from third place on the podium. This pretty gold and scarlet colored sphere thrives as one of the most expensive on the shelves, where it is seen with its pink packaging and logo in the shape of a heart (2.90 euros per kilo, end of 2021, according to Kantar).

Very strong, because large distribution and Spanish, Belgian or Polish imports weigh on the reward, specifically on those of the popular gala (1.70 euros per kilo, 35% of the market) and the sea bream (2 euros, 25%). Competition has pushed back the orchard French (-15% in ten years), but the area dedicated to this miraculous variety is increasing (+78%).

Explanation, the tricolor production of Pink Lady (137,000 tons in 2021) is sold three quarters for export. Because the rose is a hit everywhere. It is in the top 3 sales in Northern Europe. Its worldwide turnover is estimated at more than 1,500 million euros.

It is by far the most important of the club apples, as professionals say to designate a fruit whose name is a registered trademark that can only be used in exchange for royalties. This is not the case of international varieties such as golden, american red or fuji, which are free of rights, but whose quality is uncertain because they are less standardized.

The origin of this global apple company can be found in the work of John Cripps, a Briton living in Australia and employee by the Perth Department of Agriculture. In 1973, the botanist crossed a golden delicious and a lady williams.

The hybrid named Cripps Pink for its color is especially crisp and sweet, virtues appreciated by many consumers. The name Pink Lady appeared in 1979 to characterize the best examples of the line, which quickly broke into its national market (and still owns 45% of the shares in 2020).

The ministry registers the brand and entrusts its international exploitation to Apal, a collective of Australian apple growers. Mission accomplished: fill in At that time, the association convinced Chilean, South African and American arborists to cultivate the Pink Lady. Contacts with the French date back to the early 1990s and the first trees were planted in the South East, the Loire Valley and the South West since 1994.

They were joined by Italian and Spanish producers a few years later. It really was a crazy bet to launch a brand of apples. But the quality of the fruit and the rigor of its organization have paid off, points out with admiration Josselin Saint-Raymond, director of the National Apple and Pear Association (ANPP), the main professional organization in the sector.

At the base of the Pink Lady ecosystem on the Old Continent is Star Fruits, a renowned publisher of fruit varieties, based in Pontet (Vaucluse). This company is a kind of master franchisee for Australians, to whom it pays royalties. How much ? We don’t know, but Apal collects about 15 millions of euros royalties per year worldwide.

Star Fruits selects seedlings and saplings for the ten nurseries it has chosen to prepare and sell the apple trees in FranceSpain and Italy.

A very important task because the plantations must be renewed regularly: a tree begins to lose its vigor after about fifteen years or be prolonged without altering the aesthetic and taste characteristics of the product.

We carry out continuous selection work to maintain the quality and homogeneity of the plants and, if possible, improve them, he explains. Renaud Pierson, general manager of the company. Thus, the Star Fruits teams, on Apal’s recommendation, now use a mutation of the original Cripps, called Rosy Glow, which guarantees a more sustained color of the fruit.

The second pillar of the organization is Pink Lady Europe. This association of producers, also based in Pontet, supervises the ultra-precise specifications of the fruit, its size, colour, sugar content, firmness and flavour. It also manages planting rights.

To maintain our premium side, we must have a reasoned growth, he summarizes Thierry Mellette, the director. In short, joining the club is not easy and the number of members is currently limited to 700.

Above all, with the help of a budget drawn from the sector’s sales -approximately 4% of turnover-, Pink Lady Europe supervises the orchards thanks to a team of twenty technicians who visit each farmer three or four times a anus.

It also has a panel of plots, spread over the different production areas, where the evolution of the fruit is closely monitored (starch regression, coloring surface and its intensity, etc.), which allows reporting in real time weather farmers on the state of growth.

This supervision is not too much, because the production of Pink Lady is quite difficult. In fact, it is the longest apple to prepare before it arrives at the stalls: 7 months of care and 700 hours of manual labor per hectare, or on average 20% more than the other varieties. You can get 30 kilos of quality Pink Lady fruit per tree, as long as you keep a close eye on them, says Philippe Chauvet in his Noves orchard.

In fact, many meticulous interventions are necessary: ​​selection of flowers (keep only the best exposed to the sun), thinning (removal of damaged or deformed fruit), destemming (removal of leaves that give too much shade)…. -, which explains why the template represents half of the reward production cost.

These operations are also complemented with various fertilizers (potassium-based supplement) and phytosanitary treatments (nitrogen, fungicide, insecticide, etc.) that allow the desired yield to be obtained and exclude, of course, the possibility of designing an organic Pink Lady. . But even taking all the precautions we want, there is always a third of the production that does not meet the quality criteria, admits Philippe Chauvet.

The apples are sorted into one of the 84 Pink Lady Europe approved stations. The apples are placed in bulk on a kind of rail filled with water where they move along a current. The fruits go through scanners that calculate their weight, evaluate the intensity of their coloration and identify defects in their clothing. They are then classified according to their size (there are eight in the Pink Lady range, from 80 to over 270 grams).

Lower quality fruits are used to make compotes (for motherboards or Andros in particular) or fruit juice (for Tropicana or store brands). At the end of the chain, the fruits are automatically packed. The packaging varies depending on the market, explains François Mestre, co-director of Mesfruits in Cavaillon (Vaucluse), one of these apple factories that processes 70,000 tons of apples a year, including 20,000 tons of Pink. The French prefer to be served on trays, the English buy 1 kilo bags, while the Germans prefer small trays of six fruits.

Mesfruits, which is also one of the 14 authorized distributors in the sector, is not content with canning the Pink Lady, it also preserves them: to feeding the market until June, the apples are placed in chambers at 2 degrees, in a nitrogen-laden atmosphere where they do not move. What about negotiations with the big brands? We do not trade facades, specifies François Mestre. We have a product high-end that allows us to leave room for everyone.

We love you at Pink Lady, sums up the manager in unison fruits and vegetables a Leclerc center in Pas-de-Calais. They contribute to the life of the department. In fact, the Australian brand is the only one that has deployed a true marketing strategy in its niche. Still using catchphrases to do it Barrette for a particular food, much more than an apple or a natural delicacy. We have always used simple lines, pink, nods to the client and the seduction factor, explains Thierry Mellenotte, director of Pink Lady Europe, who also oversees the promotion of the brand.

A budget of approximately 3% of the sector’s turnover is used to carry out small campaigns. television, a rarity in the fruit and vegetable sector. As our notoriety index is already 85%, we rely more and more on social networks, contests or educational communications about the benefits of food, he continues.

So is the Pink Lady model duplicable? There is at least one similar success story that also comes from the antipodes, that of the New Zealand kiwifruit brand Zespri, created in 1997, which clearly Inspired by the Australian experience. There is room for premium varieties, but it will take time, notes Josselin Saint-Raymond, president of the ANPP. Some try their opportunity and “club” apples are becoming more and more numerous. They now represent 16% of French production, that is, 6% more than in 2012. But apart from Jazz which is taking off well (31,000 tons in 2021), Joya, Choupette, HoneyCrunch, Tentation and others are still quite marginal. It’s not easy to imitate the ogre Pink Lady!

Pink Woman

With Pink Lady, there is room for improvement!

With the help of the players in the sector, we have reconstructed the components of the price of a kilo of Pink Lady sold at €2.90 (€2.85 without VAT) in supermarkets (average price observed on the shelves at the end of 2021).

It is a fruit that grew in a garden whose plantation was amortized (2,000 trees in seven years per hectare). The producer gets a margin of €0.30, the packing station €0.20 and the distributor around €0.50.

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