Do you recognise the names Evelina, Ambrosia, Envy, Kanzi, Cameo, Opal, Rubens, Smitten, Pink Lady, Jazz, etc? What about Cox, Braeburn, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith or Empire? Or even, Cripps Pink, Scifresh, Civni, Caudle or Pinova? These are all names of apples used at various times for varieties regularly sold through British grocers: confusing, but important for choice, quality and price.
The difference between the three lists will be meaningless to most consumers, but a little understanding is helpful in buying the most suitable varieties for budget and eating preference.
Club Varieties: The first list of names are all ‘Club’ varieties. These are the relatively new outcomes of breeding programmes or natural selections in existing orchards which have been nurtured, protected, registered, and sometimes patented as well. The owners of these varieties can often control the production of nursery trees, where the fruit is grown and by whom, and the quality standard of the apple before the registered name can be used. The benefit to the grower is the potential for higher prices through restricted supply, and the advantages of marketing budgets to promote the fruit; while the benefit to the consumer is consistency of quality and a fairly steady flow of new varieties to enjoy (or be confused by!). Retailers tend to be keen on these registered varieties because of the higher selling prices and the potential for exclusivity, though may not always have things their own way if volumes are restricted.
Open Varieties: The second list of varieties will be most familiar, and essentially includes all ‘Open’ varieties, which any grower is free to produce and sell. These were mostly developed before the advent of controlled marketing of new varieties. They still make up most of the choice in todays supermarkets and green grocers, and no range is complete without a red (Red Delicious, Empire), yellow (Golden Delicious), green (Granny Smith), stripped (Braeburn, Gala) or traditional (Cox, Egremont Russet) choice. There is nothing wrong with these varieties and all can be fabulous at their best, but the main issue is variability in quality. Such variations are more acute with these varieties because of the fragmentation of cultivation and differing quality standards. The more quality-focused stores maintain their own specifications for these varieties, but not all shops are equal in this respect.
Working Names: The third set of names are lesser-known as they are essentially the ‘working’ names given by breeders to the first list of varieties, before release to market. Cripps Pink, for example, is Pink Lady, so named after the breeder, Prof. John Cripps of the Western Australia Dept. of Agriculture; Cripps Red is Sundowner, Scifresh is Jazz, Civni is Rubens, Caudle is Cameo, etc. These names are occasionally seen in supermarkets, often in ‘value’ packs, when the fruit doesn’t meet the exacting standards of the registered owner. Often it is purely cosmetic issues that determine which name can be used, so, for example, Cripps Pink can be called Pink Lady if the surface area of pink exceeds a certain level and exceeds a certain intensity. However, there are also minimum standards for blemishes, texture and sweetness, and if any one of these criteria are failed, the ‘working’ name has to be used. If it’s only the external colour that is different though, a bargain can be had!
With intense price competition between supermarkets, and plentiful supplies of many varieties, growers regard the new Club varieties as essential to maintaining profitability, so expect more change over time, and potentially more confusion for consumers. It would be a pity, though, to lose the older Open varieties from supermarket shelves, as they include some wonderfully tasty fruit, particularly when grown with skill and dedication: what better than a perfect Braeburn or Cox?