Love at first blush: new season Ricó pears
The new blush pear variety Ricó will be in top shape to show off its gorgeous colour and sweet, juicy flavour when it hits Australian retail shelves later this year. Mild growing conditions across Victoria’s Goulburn Valley this summer have allowed growers to harvest a productive crop of high-quality fruit. This is now destined for existing export markets in Asia and New Zealand as well as new domestic market customers here at home.
Cameron Carter, Sales Manager at Seeka Australia, says the harvest has produced a high-quality crop with a bright and fresh blush colour, good size and volume.
“The fruit is eating really well, right off the tree,” he says. “The growing season was mild this year, which has really helped with the colour and quality.”
This season is the second year of commercial volumes. Carter says the quality is improving each year as the trees mature and settle into normal growing cycles.
Andrew Mandemaker, Head of Group Quality, Innovation and Commercialisation at Apple & Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) sees encouraging signs for the ANP-0131 variety behind the Ricó brand. The cross between Corella and Doyenné du Comice pears was developed by the Victorian government’s Horticulture Centre of Excellence at Tatura SmartFarm.
“Most trees are in fourth or fifth leaf now and have settled down really well,” he says. “Controlling vigour is really important with these new blush pears. The growers have been able to do that and get the blush colour we need for the Ricó brand.”
You’re making me blush
Understanding how colour develops in blush pears is important. If they don’t have enough blush, or the colour isn’t intense enough, they won’t fetch premium prices. This is particularly in South East Asian markets that favour pears with a red blush.
The management of pears is similar to that of apples. However, compared to apples and other fruits, little was previously known about how the red colour in blush pears develops. This has hampered growers’ efforts to control when and how the colour forms, affecting their potential to sell their fruit to lucrative export markets.
Scientists at Tatura SmartFarm began working to solve this problem. They focused on the seasonal patterns of colour development in two pear cultivars. Both were bred at the SmartFarm – Ricó and ANP-0118, a red-pink variety that’s marketed as Lanya.
“We found shade caused the pears to lose colour very quickly,” says Dr Ian Goodwin, one of the scientists on the research team, which applied long, medium and short shading treatments at different stages of the fruits’ development to reach their findings. “However, the pears’ colour could quickly be recovered if they were re-exposed to sunlight.”
Ricó: a pear with personality
Ricó branded pears will be available in major retail stores in Victoria and NSW this winter, featuring the tagline, “Finally, a pear with personality”. Previous consumer research commissioned by APAL found that pears were suffering from a bit of an image problem. Many people consider them an “old-fashioned” fruit.
When one consumer made the comment that, “Pears are the quietest fruit in the fruit bowl”, this triggered an “a-ha” moment for Dean Millson of creative agency Di Marca, which conducted the research for APAL and developed the brand’s launch strategy.
“When people thought of pears, they thought of their nanna’s fruit bowl,” Millson says. “People had fallen out of love with pears.”
While the variety is controlled by Agriculture Victoria Services, APAL manages the Ricó brand. It sees it as a way to reinvigorate the pear category. It’s hoped that Ricó will help people fall in love with pears again, especially as the fruit’s appealing bright red blush helps it to stand out on-shelf. The pear also has exceptional eating quality, and its texture and sweetness have rated highly with consumers.
“After exporting Ricó for the last couple of years, it’s great news for the brand that we’re now able to give customers here in Australia an opportunity to buy it,” Mandemaker says. “With Ricó, we’ve got an exciting blush variety which tastes sensational. We think it will have a wide appeal to a new generation of pear-lovers.”
Think pears are old hat? Think again. You can find out more about the many deliciously different pear varieties now available at australianpears.com.au