Malling Sunburst, NIAB EMR’s new sweet-tasting apple variety, pink-fleshed through to the core, will be exclusively available in Waitrose later this month, following harvest of the only currently commercial orchard of the variety at East Malling.
The variety’s exceptional package of taste, appearance and heritage appeals to a wide range of consumers, particularly children, and is ideal for the fresh market. Launched in 2017, Malling Sunburst owes its unique and distinctive colouring to a distant wild apple species, and is expected to become one of the country’s most popular apples, with an extensive and rapid orchard planting programme across the UK.
Conventionally crossed at NIAB EMR in 2000 and selected in 2006, the parentage includes Gala, recognised for its excellent characteristics as a dessert apple and good growing habit, and a line from a cross between the traditional garden variety Falstaff and the purple-fleshed Pink Pearl. Pink Pearl’s heritage includes a pink-fleshed wild species called Niedzwetzky’s apple, native to Central Asia. In 2009 NIAB EMR partnered with South African-based fruit business re:inc innovation to fine tune the agronomy of Malling Sunburst for global production.
NIAB EMR’s Technical Director Graham Caspell believes this exciting new variety fits the increasing demand from UK consumers for home-grown sweet apples, with a firm, crunchier texture and good skin finish. “Malling Sunburst is very juicy with high sugars and a wonderful aroma. It has a medium-sized, conical shape that is relatively early, and the pink flesh shines through the orange skin to give it a unique appearance.”
Malling Sunburst’s potential was immediately obvious during selection. “Plant breeding is about choosing the right parents to cross. It can then take over 25 years until a new apple variety reaches the marketplace. Fortunately, we sped up the process once we saw Malling Sunburst’s unique colouring and were delighted this variety, with a true ‘wow factor’, hit the supermarket shelves only 17 years from the first cross,” says Graham.
The commercialisation of Malling Sunburst is managed in the UK by Scion Fruits Ltd, a joint venture between top fruit suppliers Richard Hochfeld Ltd, one of the largest suppliers of apples and pears to the retail sector, and UK nursery company Frank P Matthews. Scion Fruits Ltd has made a significant investment in bringing volume to market in the future with a new planting programme.
“The taste and texture compares favourably with any other apple and the consumer feedback from last year’s crop was excellent. This season, the appearance and taste of the fruit is even more consistent. We have already planted a lot more trees in Kent and Herefordshire and by 2024, we expect to have 200,000 trees in the ground in Europe,” says Scion Fruits Ltd Director Martin O’Sullivan.