Love at first blush: new season Ricó pears

30th March 2021 | Eativity editors

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 that’s destined for both existing export markets in Asia and New Zealand and 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, and 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 – a cross between Corella and Doyenné du Comice pears – which 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, and 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 because if they don’t have enough blush, or the colour isn’t intense enough, they won’t fetch premium prices – particularly from South East Asian markets that favour pears with a red blush.

Pears are often managed in a similar way to apples, however, compared to apples and other fruits, little was previously known about how the red colour in blush pears develops, which 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, focusing on the seasonal patterns of colour development in two pear cultivars bred at the SmartFarm – Ricó and the ANP-0118 variety, which is marketed as Lanya and is red and pink in colour.

“We found shade caused the pears to lose colour very quickly, but if they were re-exposed to sunlight, the pears’ colour could quickly be recovered,” 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.

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, and were seen by some people to be 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, the commercial arm of the state government, APAL manages the Ricó brand and sees it as a way to reinvigorate the pear category. It’s hoped that Ricó will help people fall in love with pears again, with the fruit’s appealing bright red blush helping 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