Bravo’s core quality bears fruit, sparking growing overseas apeel for WA-bred apple

Bravo’s core quality bears fruit, sparking growing overseas apeel for WA-bred apple

The Royal Gala and Cripps Red (branded as “sundowner”) offspring, Bravo apple.

Having learnt its lesson from the intellectual property (IP) issues that hampered the commercial windfall from the Pink Lady apple brand, production of the West Australian-bred Bravo apple is ramping up with demand soaring nationwide and overseas.

Apple-auded for its unique burgundy skin that sets it apart on the shelf, it is expected that more than 6,000 tonnes of the Bravo variety will be harvested across Australia this season, up 30 per cent on 2021 levels.  

Exports of the popular WA-owned variety are expected to more than double this season on the back of strong market growth last year, with the Bravo apple living up to its marketing trademark “like no other”.

As the offspring of Royal Gala and Cripps Red - the latter branded as Sundowner - Bravo has garnered itself  a healthy and growing reputation, which comes as no surprise to WA Farm Direct executive manager Rebecca Blackman.

“It's different. It's got a really unique colour, a beautiful flavour with the right amount of crispness and crunchiness, and it doesn't matter whether you're buying it at the beginning of the season or the end of the season, the outcome is exactly the same,” Blackman explains to Business News Australia.

“I think people are looking for something a little bit different, and Bravo certainly provides that, especially in Asia where the colour red is considered lucky.

“We have a range of large and small fruits - for the smaller fruit, they can have it pre-packed, or for larger fruit, they can cut it and share it with their families, which is quite prominent over there.”

The Bravo variety was discovered in 1992 by the late apple breeder John Cripps - the creator of the Pink Lady who passed away this year - as part of the WA Government’s Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) breeding program in Stoneville and Manjimup.

Alongside The University of Western Australia (UWA), DPIRD manages the Australian National Apple Breeding Program’s research into breeding flavonoid-rich apples. With more than 50,000 seedlings in the ground, the aim is to create new unique and tasty varieties that will be developed to suit local growing conditions, enabling growers and industry to prosper.

After 20 years of cultivating the fruit, DPIRD licensed the WA Fruit West Co-operative to run the commercialisation, release the trees and start extending the program in 2013.

Grown across the Australian mainland in Stanthorpe (Queensland), Orange and Batlow (New South Wales), Yarra Valley, Shepparton in the Goulburn Valley (where almost half the fruit is now grown) and Mornington Peninsula (Victoria), Adelaide Hills (Adelaide) and Manjimup, Donnybrook/Kirup and Perth Hills (Western Australia), more than 80 growers have invested around $30 million to establish the ANABP 01 premium apple range - the technical name for the Bravo apples.

This season is the seventh harvest of the variety, but of the 600,000 trees that have been planted to date the majority haven’t yet reached maturity – which occurs at year seven. Therefore, the amount of Bravo apples produced will grow exponentially over the next few years, with more trees continuing to be planted.

With export deals already in place with Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, a locally-driven global marketing campaign has been core to its success since its first commercial sales in 2016.

The export of the Bravo apple has been managed very differently than that of its stable-cousin Cripps Pink (branded as “Pink Lady”).

“The Pink Lady model was done a little bit differently in that it went offshore before they realised the value, whereas this time it was secured a lot earlier,” confirms Blackman.

“Trademarks were organised before they started being sold commercially elsewhere, so that was probably one of the biggest learnings. The trademark is also kept part of the WA Government, which is something they're quite conscious about, to continue getting that royalty stream for years to come.”

Existing royalty schemes are in place with Fruit West, which manages the process, the DPIRD and a trademark royalty.

It’s not been an easy couple of years for the team behind Bravo, who’ve had to deal with a mixture of issues, including reverberations related to COVID-19, climate, labour shortages, and, more recently, increasing transportation costs.

“We are trying not to trans-ship where we don't have to, so we can potentially just go straight from point A to point B to deliver the fruit and avoid them getting stuck in a port,” says Blackman, who says the best way to avoid transport issues is through planning and pre-booking.

“The less time on the water, the better, and so far, we haven’t had any issues. If you are prepared to pay, you can still get a container, but it's not nearly as cheap as it used to be.”

Blackman said that according to the Australian Government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM), shipping prices aren’t likely to fall any time soon.

“IFAM, which was providing funding for horticulture and other areas to be able to use air freight as well as sea freight at a reduced rate over COVID, said that they don't expect the prices to come down.

“In fact, they expect the prices to continue to rise, mainly because of the additional cost of fuel and the issues stemming from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In addition, throughout the worldwide sea chain, a significant number of ships on the water have Russian crews, which is also causing issues.”

West Australian-bred Bravo apple.
West Australian-bred Bravo apple.

 

Bravo’s growers were lucky to avoid many of the pitfalls of the Queensland and New South Wales floods earlier this year. Blackman says a lot of the trees in Stanthorpe, where the flooding was quite substantial, were, fortunately, younger trees that could sustain the conditions a little better.

While acknowledging the adeptness of the East Coast growers in managing flooding issues, she mentioned they still experienced some internal problems – dealing with diseases arising from the wet followed by warm weather.

The warmer weather was also a factor in WA, where temperatures reached over 40 degrees for five days in a row coming into harvest. Finding labour to help pick the yield was also very difficult, resulting in growers taking an additional two and half weeks to pick the fruit this year compared to last year.

“It's quite difficult because it needs to be done at a farm level, and the process they are required to go through is quite hefty,” Blackman confirms in response to whether any bodies were providing any help.

“If they don't have those systems set up already and don't have accommodation available in the country towns, they're not eligible for it. It’s not an easy or quick fix thing.

“A lot of the growers from the last couple of years had already sorted themselves out, so have had access to labour. However, when people did have COVID, they were out, and you mightn’t know how many people would turn up on one day - so it's managing that, as well as having an actual labour shortage.”

During COVID, lockdowns in Australia and throughout Asia caused Bravo’s export programme to be cut shorter than the business would have liked. It is currently not facing any market issue regarding the sending of apples,aside from delays stemming from a lack of containers.

Depsite so many external factors impacting the production of the Bravo apple, Blackman doesn’t see the price of apples in Australia increasing soon, something shoppers should be thankful for.

“At the moment, the price is tending to stay the same – we have a pooling system, so once the whole season’s finished, we price the apples so we don't have the volatility of what you can get today versus what you can get tomorrow,” Blackman said.

“We make decisions based on a whole season, so we can export the product at a certain rate and get sales for supermarkets at a certain rate - making sure that our growers are returning a good profit overall. That's one of the benefits of being in a pooling system.”

Bravo apples are available throughout Australia in Coles (ASX: COL), Woolworths (ASX: WOW), IGA, Farmer Jacks Harris Farm, Drakes, Foodland and most independent stores.

Bravo’s short-term strategy is to increase the number of markets the apples are exported to. This will likely happen in the next year, once the business has ensured all regulations are in place.  

Bravo apples.
The Bravo apple is known for its unique burgundy skin.

 

“Bravo has continued to build on the legacy of respected apple breeder, the late John Cripps AO, with a high-performance variety that not only looks appealing and tastes great, but also yields well under Australian conditions,” WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.

"Innovative strategies are being used to market Bravo apples around the world, including partnering with influencers, in-store tasting, digital promotion, and the use of a QR code on fruit stickers to direct consumers to more information online.

"That work is paying off - Bravos are bucking market trends, and exports are soaring despite major global supply chain challenges. Bravo apples are a true Western Australian success story, and we're proud to continue backing our growers with this one-of-a-kind fruit."

Bravo harvest.
Bravo apple orchards. Demand is soaring both domestically and overseas. 

 

Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support

How communications technology can raise the bar on customer service, employee experience
Partner Content
From capturing feedback early to providing messages with a higher rate of cut-through, ...
Advertisement

Related Stories

'The largest event since the Olympics': SXSW goes Down Under with Sydney offshoot

'The largest event since the Olympics': SXSW goes Down Under with Sydney offshoot

For the first time in its 36-year history, the famed SXSW (South by...

Commercial tower at Sydney’s Green Square receives development approval

Commercial tower at Sydney’s Green Square receives development approval

A commercial tower designed with the changing nature of work in min...

Atturra looks to become an IT powerhouse after acquiring MOQ for $15.5 million

Atturra looks to become an IT powerhouse after acquiring MOQ for $15.5 million

Atturra (ASX: ATA) is looking to become one of the nation&rsqu...

Body Fit Training questions latest trademark move from competitor F45

Body Fit Training questions latest trademark move from competitor F45

After claiming victory in a four-year legal stoush with fitness fra...