Fashion Foods | Rabobank New Zealand Client
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Fashion Foods


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For the past 30 years orchardists Bill and Erica Lynch of Fashion Foods have been searching for the ‘missing link’ in their apple breeding program. Finally they have found the variety they’re looking for, and it has a sister!

While the past two decades have been spent passionately looking for an apple with the commercial appeal of Royal Gala but with the flavour profile of its ancestor Heritage Gala, Bill admits that they really only became orchardists by accident.

“Both Erica and I started our careers in the corporate world around Wellington and Taranaki but after having our three children we set our minds to pursuing sheep farming in the Nelson/Tasman region,” Bill said. “We found it difficult to secure an appropriate ‘pathway’ property so in 1979 we ended up purchasing an apple orchard with the intention to develop it and run breeding ewes.

“It wasn’t long though until we became fascinated by the industry’s challenges and potential.

“Our first plant breeding activities commenced in 1986 with the establishment of our own nursery to facilitate the plant breeding operation.” The Lynch family extensively developed and gradually quadrupled the property size through acquiring other nearby orchards. 

They currently have approximately 40 hectares of trees producing 80,000 cartons of apples. Their varieties vary but include Royal Gala, Jazz, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Fuji, Koru, Pink Lady, Envy and Kiku. For Erica and Bill though plant breeding has gradually become their primary focus.

The hunt for flavour

“We’re fortunate that our son Dan has pretty much taken over running the commercial orchard, which has freed up our time to really focus on breeding a variety we’re proud of,” Bill said. For Bill and Erica, this 30 year search for an improved Gala variety has yielded two varieties that are on the cusp of commercialisation, they are MONDAJU and BERICA.

“Both MONDAJU and BERICA offer distinctive points of difference to currently available apple varieties,” Bill said. They are both visually distinctive, with BERICA producing fruit with bright pink/orange colouration and a pale lemon background with some random flecking and MONDAJU featuring a vivid pink blush and white spots.

“They are both very attractive varieties with an excellent shelf life, but what we find the most exciting are the strong taste advantages, these varieties will provide consumers with a much improved flavour experience over Royal Gala.

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“They are both also grower friendly varieties that ripen early and will be able to enter the market when it is strong and demanding." International interest for the two new varieties has been strong and Bill and Erica are now working hard to promote the varieties to other growers.

“We’re thrilled with the response that we’ve been getting from the market and they are demanding large volumes,” he said.

“We are at a tipping point now where we know we can market the apple with relative ease and that there’s strong demand."

“We now need to create awareness amongst growers and investors about the opportunity to grow BERICA and MONDAJU.”


Mass consumer interest

Fashion Foods’ new varieties were a feature of the Rabobank Paddock to Plate showcase held at the NZ National Agricultural Fieldays in June this year. The team provided 10,000 tastings of BERICA and MONDAJU to Rabobank clients and Fieldays visitors and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“We offered visitors a slice of both varieties and their preference seemed to run at about 50/50,” Bill said.

“However there was universal endorsement of the strong, sweet flavours and we had very positive feedback on their visual appeal.

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“Having access to such a large group of people whom we could use to sample but also to promote our new varieties was invaluable and typical of the support that Rabobank has shown us over the years.”

Bill and Erica have been banking with Rabobank for over 20 years and say it’s their understanding of rural business that sets them apart.

“Rabo seems to better understand the cyclical nature and needs of primary productions, the vagaries of nature and climate and appreciate the competencies of farmers,” Bill said.

“They’ve responded positively to our development, expansion, diversification and equity needs."

“We were able to achieve sound progress when industry downturns handicapped some growers and their support for diversification and off-farm investment meant we could utilise unrelated equity beneficially in adverse trading years.”

The trading challenges faced by NZ apple growers 10 years ago have now eased and the industry has managed to stake out a solid export market, particularly to Asia. “New Zealand has been able to establish a premium position in the market by leveraging quality, food safety and environmental diligence while continuing to provide desirable improved varieties,” Bill said.

“The country has reached high production levels and its producers are now exploiting innovation gains."

“Of course our proximity to the Asian markets provides a logistical and timing advantage.”

However, despite the strength of the industry in New Zealand, the shrinking global marketplace has meant that Fashion Foods have had to look abroad for partners and potential competition. Bill and Erica are currently in France as part of a European trip to meet with interested parties.

“We are here to evaluate and progress our global positioning, we are exploring future possible representation, growing sites and license arrangements,” Bill said. “We are also able to evaluate other new apples being developed that may present competition, so far what we’ve seen has only buoyed our confidence.”

Fashion Foods will commence branding with small volumes of the two apple varieties to Chinese receivers in 2017.

“It will take some time to build up volume for distribution,” Bill said. “But in the meantime we are committed to engaging consumers via sampling and the trade by attendance at exhibitions.” If you are looking for a beautiful and tasty new apple to try keep an eye out Fashion Foods, coming to an exhibition stand near you!

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