Upple: it’s the apple you can drink

17th November 2020 | Alison Turner

Since 2000, almost 50 percent of Australia’s apple growers have left the industry. Decreasing farmgate prices and increasingly stringent specifications set by the big supermarket chains are making it progressively harder for our apple farmers to turn a profit, while apple exports and domestic consumption of apples are also dropping.

For an apple grower to survive in this challenging environment, new approaches to doing business need to be found. Many apple growers are now moving into value-added products and services, to the benefit of both the grower and the apple-loving consumer. Glenbernie Orchard at Darkes Forest in NSW has expanded into making cider. The Mock family in Victoria have branched out into cider and freeze dried fruits. Montague Apples, which has growers across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, is opening The Orchard at Montague in Victoria this coming January. The new tourist attraction features a restaurant, a retail store, a bike store, seasonal exhibition space and a pick-your-own fruit orchard.

The Orchard at Montague will offer visitors a chance to learn first-hand how Aussie fruit is grown.

But one business that’s really taken innovation to the next level is the Savio family, a third generation apple growing family in Queensland’s Granite Belt. The family, which has been growing apples for 70 years, has created Upple – an apple in a bottle.

While you might be thinking that this doesn’t sound particularly different or cutting-edge, this is no ordinary apple juice that we’re talking about here. This is a whole apple in a bottle, with only the core and pips omitted. It took three years and at least a million dollars to perfect the secret process, which is currently patent pending, with the help of a food processing engineer and the University of Queensland.

All the goodness of an apple, in a 100% recycled bottle.

“This is true innovation,” says Upple brand consultant and project leader Deborah Loosely. “A lot of products claim to be innovative, but really, it’s usually just a new flavour or a new colour, or the sugar or fat is taken out.

“It’s a simple idea in theory, but it was tough to execute. It’s not easy to create a product that has a lovely texture and retains all the freshness of an apple, as well as the nutrition. That was the challenge. And that’s why nobody has tried it, to date, because it’s not easy.”

Using the whole apple means that Upple retains all of the fibre, antioxidants and other nutrients of the fruit, making Upple a healthy, filling snack that you can drink. The texture is surprisingly smooth and velvety, and it tastes just like a real, fresh apple.

“Juice is normally quite high in sugar,” Loosely says. “And you drink more juice than you would get from a normal apple – probably two or three times the amount, which means two or three times the sugar, but without any of the fibre.”

Four generations: Pietro “Peter” Savio (front centre) moved from Italy after WWII to start an apple orchard.

The Savio family were concerned about the steady decline in income they were seeing due to increasingly tough retail specifications. Anything even a tiny bit off the mark is now downgraded to juice prices, which are simply not financially viable. Being no strangers to innovation – the family also uses high-tech apple grading software and is investing in robotic pickers – they decided they needed to value-add if they wanted to stay in business.

“It’s no secret that the standards keep getting higher for acceptable fruit,” Loosely says. “The family knew that the fruit being rejected was perfectly good eating quality. But if you send those apples for juicing, firstly, you don’t get very much for them at all. It’s not even really worth picking them, depending on fluctuations in price.

“But the other really big issue is all that really good apple nutrition is just wasted. You just send them off for juicing and all that beautiful fibre and peel and pulp, all the polyphenols and antioxidants and probiotics, everything else that’s in there, that’s all just wasted.”

An Upple a day: fresh and nutritious, Upple contains only apple and vitamin C.

The Savios hope that the product will appeal to health-conscious people with busy lifestyles, as well as parents of young children. Most Australians aren’t eating enough fruit, so Upple is the easy solution to upping your fruit intake anywhere, anytime. Currently Upple comes in two varieties – Granny Smith and Pink Lady (which both happen to be Aussie-invented varieties), but there is a possibility that other varieties may be added in future.

The family also hopes to upgrade their current on-site processing facility to a larger factory. As well as allowing the Savios to upscale production, this could potentially allow other local growers to Upple-ise their own perfectly good fruit that’s been rejected by supermarkets.

“This is a value-adding system that the family see continuing on as part of their future,” Loosely says. “They’re committed to it. They’re committed to the area, they’re committed to farming and they’re committed to apple growing.”

Upple is currently available in Queensland, with plans to move into NSW in the coming weeks. Other states and territories will follow. To find out more, head to upple.com.au