Picking of Montague’s newest apple brand – the early-season Smitten® – kicks off this week, aptly coinciding with Valentine’s Day.
The bi-coloured, crisp and full flavoured apple is available this week in selected Queensland Coles stores and will be available on Victorian and New South Wales Coles shelves from next week.
This is the second harvest for the new apple, from the PremA17 variety, bred from Gala, Braeburn and the UK varieties Falstaff and Fiesta and marketed under the tagline Once bitten, forever Smitten.
Montague General Manager IP and Business Development Rowan Little said Montague was excited to have such a sweet, crisp and juicy apple to start the new season and the 1200 cartons marketed last year had been very well received, selling out in under a fortnight.
This year volumes are still small at around 5000 cartons, but Jazz®, also managed by Montague, began with 100 boxes in its first season just over a decade ago and now has in excess of 500,000 Scifresh trees planted.
PremA17 was bred in New Zealand by Plant and Food Research (PFR) and is owned by the international variety development and commercialisation company Prevar (a joint venture between APAL, PFR and Pipfruit NZ).
The first commercial plantings of PremA17 in Australia occurred in 2013. Growers in the program are expecting to yield around 65t/ha of Smitten-branded fruit at full production.
Ripening in February, Smitten will be one of the first new season apples.
Rowan said Smitten looked like a Gala, but was stripier, firmer fleshed and had been selected for its eating appeal and early season maturity. It’s firm flesh allowed it to pack well and it has a good shelf life.
“It is a very early apple, which harvests about the same time as Gala,” he said. “It has a lovely flavour and a very good crunch.”
Growers licensed to grow Smitten will pay marketing and royalty levies and packing charges, and must meet quality standards, but will get ongoing technical support as part of the licensee agreement and strong brand marketing, backed by a tailored marketing plan.
Growers who would like to know more about growing Smitten, or being part of the Montague grower group can contact firstname.lastname@example.org