THE West Australian-bred apple keeps finding new fans around the world, writes SANDRA GODWIN
Pink lady apples will notch up two important milestones this year.
The Australian-bred variety has pushed granny smith - another well-established Australian variety - out of the number three spot for sales by value in the United Kingdom.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the first shipment of fruit from Australia to the UK.
Pink lady is the registered trademark for the apple cultivar known as cripps pink. It is managed around the world by Coregeo, a company wholly owned by Apple and Pear Australia.
APAL managing director Jon Durham, who is chairman of Coregeo in the UK, said the first Australian pink lady apples went to the UK in 1992 from Western Australia.
"They were unknown," he said. "It took some really good work by some industry people at the time and some WA Department of Agriculture people as well to convince some of the retailers to give it a try.
"Fortunately Marks and Spencer agreed to give it a go."
Developed by WA Department of Agriculture plant breeder John Cripps in 1973 from a cross between lady williams and golden delicious, pink lady has taken the world by storm. The UK and mainland Europe have become significant markets.
UK sales topped 3 million 12.5kg boxes last year for the first time, while Europe consumed about 170,000 tonnes.
"Pink lady has now moved into third position by value in the apple category in the UK, which is a great achievement to displace granny smiths," Mr Durham said.
Pink lady also accounts for 30 per cent of the Australian apple market. While production limits apply in Europe, with annual plantings restricted to about 500,000 trees, the cultivar is unmanaged in Australia.
"Some cripps pink mutations have been able to achieve (plant breeders rights) protection in Australia, but the original cripps pink is an unprotected variety, free to the industry," Mr Durham said.
Mr Durham said he welcomed competition from emerging new varieties such as jazz, kanzi and greenstar.
"We feel as though we're in a very good position, we've got a very good product," he said.
There are an estimated 950 growers producing pink lady apples in Australia.