Despite the risks of having its fruit grown illegally, T&G is confident about promoting the high-value Envy apple variety in China.
Increasing demand for the licenced apple variety in China has prompted the company to embark on trial-sized plantings of the apple in conjunction with Chinese distribution and orcharding company Joy Wing Mao.
T&G CEO Gareth Edgecombe said T&G has compared notes with Zespri as it builds its presence in China and works to protect the IP of the apple variety.
Zespri is currently grappling with the problem of over 7000ha of unauthorised SunGold kiwifruit grown there, after the illegal importation of germplasm from NZ.
Edgecombe said T&G has already successfully defended its IP against illegally grown fruit, through the Chinese legal system
“If a demonstration can be made of IP rights and infringement there is good evidence it will be supported,” he said.
“We are working to stay on top of it.”
He acknowledged T&G is earlier along the growth curve with the apple’s presence than Zespri with its SunGold kiwifruit.
However, prospects are strong for a fruit that is presently grown on commercial scale in NZ and Washington state in the United States, to guarantee its 365-day shelf supply target of 18 million cartons by 2030.
Envy is ticking all the boxes as a successful apple for the large fruit-eating Asian market.
“It has a sweetness and crunch, visual appeal, and aroma that mean it all comes together as the ideal apple,” Edgecombe said.
Its appeal is even further enhanced for Asian markets thanks to Envy’s auspicious red colouring and larger size, which makes it ideal for being cut up and shared in the Asian fashion.
From an orchardist’s perspective, Envy is not the simplest apple to grow, but if done well can prove a high-yielding, high-value option.
Growing the apple in China demonstrated to Chinese authorities that T&G is attempting to lift standards in the industry while protecting its IP to maintain sovereignty over the variety.
“But to do that well in China you have to be local, so we have a good partnership with Joy Wing Mao as distributors and growers.”
Edgecombe did not rule out the possibility of growing a proprietary apple brand on a larger scale in China at some future date.
“If we find something that was not global but would go well in China, we may well commercialise in China. But with Envy we have put out our long-term strategy for planting for Washington and NZ.”
He sees continuing upward growth through much of Asia, particularly Taiwan, China, Japan and Hong Kong, and burgeoning growth prospects for Indonesia as that nation rapidly modernises and develops.
Growing 30% of the apples itself in NZ, T&G was hit particularly hard by Cyclone Gabrielle earlier this year, losing two orchards.
“But we have got many high-quality orchards, and our growth plans are intact.”
Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Nelson are all target areas for plantings, with the variety unable to be grown south of Nelson.
In June T&G announced the launch of a new apple variety, Joli, which will be available to consumers from 2028 and is capable of being grown south of Nelson in Canterbury and Otago.