We’re going through a really innovative phase of fruit growing where we’re able to naturally develop different varieties and bring something new and interesting for Asda customers to try.
We’ve got a few different examples in stores at the moment, including our really popular Extra Special Candy Floss Seedless Grapes with a gorgeous sweet taste of vanilla candy floss; our delicious Doughnut Peaches, which taste like a regular peach but are named after their striking circular shape; and our juicy Grower's Selection Flavour King plums with an incredible bubblegum flavour and a lovely red flesh.
We call them plums, but they get their lovely sweet flavour and striking red colour because they're a cross between a plum and an apricot – known as a pluot. This varierty is 60 percent plum and 40 percent apricot.
Words like candy and bubblegum are a really good way of describing the flavour. It’s so unique; the fruits have these candy-like sweet characteristics that stop you in your tracks.
Customers are starting to recognise and ask for these varieties, and they’re proving a big hit due to their quirky and different flavours. They're really popular with kids and are a great way of getting them to eat more fruit.
I took a punnet of the bubblegum plums home and when you see the whole lot being devoured in seconds by the kids you know you’re onto something.
But it's not just children who love them – we're finding these new flavour profiles are appealing to all ages.
That’s really what it’s all about – offering customers a choice of the best and most unique varieties and offering a healthy snack that children will want to try.
It's great to see posts like these about the Candy Floss Grapes on social media:
We try to get fruit with a slightly different flavour profile – something with a specific flavour, flesh and juicy inside – so Asda customers get the best quality.
We work with fruit growers around the world to source the new varieties of fruit like these. People work a lifetime to perfect these varieties of grapes and stone fruit. They naturally cross one flavour of grape with another, meticulously using soft brushes like the ones you use for make-up to cross the pollen from one plant to another.
It’s very scientific – the growers know which chromosomes have the characteristics to mix with another of the varieties. It’s not GM in any way; they grow exactly as other varieties of fruits grow.
There will be thousands of different varieties of grapes to work from and the breeders will take little aspects from all of them together. Breeding these plants takes years to perfect and only after successful trials can we start to increase production and extend their availability.
They are currently very seasonal but particularly with the candy floss grapes now being grown in countries such as Brazil and Mexico, as well as Spain and Italy, we are expecting them to become more available throughout the year.
The grapes we’re selling at the moment are from Spain and Asda has people there who’ll be visiting the vineyards with the grower and their team. They check that levels are right to get the right flavour profile and ensure that it meets all our specifications.
It will be packed into punnet by the grower in Spain and then delivered to our depots in the UK and can be in stores within four days.
Innovation has always been the key in produce. It's easy to forget that red seedless grapes weren't available all year round as recently as ten years ago. Now that challenge has been met our next goal is to improve the current varieties to try to keep ahead of the competition and offer customers something new and exciting. After trials it can take a relatively short time – two to four years – to get a grape or stone fruit variety into commercial production, so feeding back information of customers' reactions to growers is important. For me it has been exciting to see some new ‘niche’ varieties become mainstream varieties as they are grown in more volume across the world.
Fruit has been a lifetime passion of mine; I’ve worked in the industry for 31 years and I'm the second generation of my family. My father, Rodolfo Goldbacher, came over to the UK from Italy after the war. He lived in London and would import fruit to sell to traders in Covent Garden Market, which in those days supplied all the provincial markets, I remember him getting up at 5 every morning to see the fruit in the market and discuss prices with the traders. When he started it all came across in rail wagons and their idea of refrigeration was loading the carriages with blocks of ice that were re-iced in Switzerland before getting to the UK.
Everything was extremely seasonal and products that are now considered basic essentials were exotic in those days – fruits like lemons and oranges were only available for a few months of the year. In those days languages were essential and there were specialists in countries like Italy, France and Spain who would import all the salad, veg, fruit and potatoes.
If he were still around today he would see it as a very different industry and be blown away with the choice and value on offer every day.