Chief commercial officer Michael Joyles told Horticulture Week: "We will launch Cabaret at Christmas and Stardance in January, both exclusively to Tesco. There are already 17,000 Cabaret trees in, with another 2,500 to go in, and 5,000 Stardance trees with a further 15,000 to go, all with Avalon growers."
He explained: "We were looking for varieties to extend the season, not compete with Braeburn or Gala," and described Stardance as "a scaband mildew-resistant variety that stores well - so far everyone has loved it". Cabaret, meanwhile, "is crunchy and well-balanced with winter spices", he said. "We are hoping for at least 40 tonnes a hectare with it. It picks after Gala so suits the picking windows too."
The grower group "has another 23 varieties in the NPD pipeline, some planted out commercially, some still in trial", said Joyles.
Avalon's Stardance trees are supplied by Kent nursery JR Breach. Its owner John Breach also presented an as-yet unnamed red-skinned pear, a hybrid of Concorde and Red Williams he made in 2007. "It has the long storage of Concorde and the flavour of Williams," he said. "It's in the process of getting a name. Right now it's on the Plant Breeders' Rights register as 'NC4'. We don't know where it's going yet."
Frank P Matthews partnered with Botden & van Willegen at the show to explain the Worcestershire tree nursery's new distribution deal with the Dutch tree supplier. "They were looking for someone to sell their trees into the UK on their behalf following Will Sibley's retirement," said Matthews assistant managing director Steph Dunn. "They have great trees including newer varieties like Opal, Red Jonaprince, which stores through to June, and the club variety Junami."
These complement Matthews' own "novelty" varieties such is its pink-fleshed Surprize apples, currently being sold through Tesco, she pointed out. "Red-fleshed ones are higher in antioxidants so it's added value. Commodity varieties don't make good value in the marketplace so it pays to have something unusual."
She added: "We work with UK and European breeders and have our own ongoing breeding programme looking for the next best apple, especially for long-term storage. We grow the trees through to cropping on the nursery, so we can rule out susceptibility to pests and disease."
Similarly, Hutchinsons announced it is now sole UK agent for Belgian fruit tree nursery Carolus at the show. Based near Hasselt, the 120ha nursery has 26 full-time employees and produces more than two million pear and apple trees across more than 65 varieties, as well as rootstocks. Hutchinsons horticulture director Mike Hutchinson said: "We are good partners with a similar approach to business."