A successful marketing campaign and an improved harvest are helping to turn around the recent decline of the traditional British Bramley apple, last week's (27 March) East Malling Research Top-Fruit Storage Day heard.
Outlining the problem, English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow, who also chairs the industry's Bramley Campaign, said: "There is potential to return to the levels prior to 2012 and 2013, but it will be a lot of work just to get back to where we were.
"We've had two years of very insufficient product, and that has cost us dear. We have seen a loss of shelf space in supermarkets, while the food manufacturers switched to a blended product."
That meant it was important to have a strong Bramleys campaign this season, he added.
The six Bramley recipes devised by television chef Phil Vickery "got a lot of coverage", while a YouTube video demonstrating baked Bramleys was watched by more than 11,000 viewers in its first week and was picked up by other outlets, Barlow explained, and the Great Bramley Bake In recipe competition has just been successfully completed.
Entry to the competition this year was solely via the campaign's Facebook page, and Barlow stressed that online media are now key to such promotions.
He pointed out that more than 60 per cent of the population now own smartphones, with more than nine out of ten of them accessing the internet every day, while Twitter has 11 million UK users and rising.
The 2013 Bramley harvest of 52,000 tonnes was 14 per cent up on the difficult 2012 season despite a slight dip in growing area, according to Fruition PO technical manager Dr Martin Luton.
Export potential Raising awareness
Asked whether Bramleys might be among the produce contributing to UK exports, English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow said: "We have tried in the past to promote exports of fresh and processed product, but you really have to raise awareness of it, which means spending a lot of money.
"Do we have that, and which markets would we focus on? You would have to persuade consumers to cook with Bramleys rather than second-class dessert apples, and there would be a price difference in that. There is potential, but it would have to be very well thought out, presenting them as an up-market product."