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About Pink Lady Apples

Parentage: Golden Delicious x Lady Williams
Origin: Australia
Introduced: Late 20th century
Season: Dec-Jun

Perhaps more than any other modern apple, Pink Lady epitomizes the trend towards aggressive product marketing and branding. Pink Lady was one of the first apple varieties to be marketed as a "club". The variety is grown under a strictly controlled license, and then marketed through a limited number of resellers to the supermarkets. This tight control is intended to keep quality and prices high, and it is portrayed as a premium product.

You may have sometimes seen another variety called Cripps Pink in the shops and noticed the similarity ... it is actually the same variety. In order to preserve the premium appeal of Pink Lady, about 65% of the production which does not meet the standards required for Pink Lady is sold as Cripps Pink instead. The distinction is primarily made on color intensity and the sugar/acid balance. Whilst this might at first appear to be a cynical marketing ploy, it arguably benefits consumers because it means that the variability of quality of Pink Lady is less than you might find in other varieties.

The marketing effort has particularly targeted young women, and has resulted in Pink Lady apples being promoted in such unlikely settings as the Glastonbury music festival, as well as in women's magazines, and cross-marketed with Barbie dolls. Pink Lady even has its own website - www.pinkladyapples.co.uk.  The marketing effort for Pink Lady focuses on lifestyle rather than flavor, and having achieved about 10% of the UK market in a very short space of time, it is clearly working.

Pink Lady was developed in the 1970s by John Cripps in Western Australia, and is a cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams.  This same breeding program also led to Sundowner  - which shares the same parentage. Lady Williams is not a particularly well known apple variety in Europe, but has been quite widely grown in Australia, having been discovered as a chance seedling in the 1930s. It is probably from Lady Williams that Pink Lady gets its distinct coloring. (However it is interesting that another modern "blush" apple, the orange-colored Tentation, is also a Golden Delicious cross).  Pink Lady and Sundowner are very similar, but we think Pink Lady is just slightly closer to Golden Delicious in terms of flavor.

Pink Lady requires a very long growing period and a hot climate, and hence is only grown in the warmer apple-growing regions of South Africa, USA, and southern Europe.  Strong sunlight in autumn is vital for the pink coloration to develop and growers may remove the top-most leaves of the trees to allow light to penetrate.  Pink Lady is a vigorous tree and hangs on to its leaves well into winter.  It also shares a characteristic found in some other apple varieties in that the quality of fruit in the early years of the tree is not good.  These horticultural difficulties meant that Pink Lady was initially unpopular with growers - until they realized the premium prices they could get for this unique pink apple.

Pink Lady apples from the northern hemisphere tend to arrive in shops from late November - but the very long storage life means they are available almost all year round from northern or southern hemisphere orchards.

Does Pink Lady match up with the marketing? Visually, it certainly does - it is still unusual to see an apple that is genuinely pink and Pink Lady is undoubtedly one of the best looking apple varieties available. We are not so sure the flavor is quite up there with the best modern varieties (take Jazz for example), and it struggles to compete with some of the more complex older varieties.  Perhaps the most interesting comparison is with its sibling variety, Sundowner - we think Sundowner has a slightly better flavor, very similar to Pink Lady but just a bit stronger. Pink Lady is a fairly juicy apple, and the texture is solid and bites cleanly.  The flavor is perfectly acceptable, slightly more acidic than Golden Delicious.  In short, a very attractive apple with a good flavor, and deservedly popular. 

Background

  • The Pink LadyTM trademark is one of the great success stories of the fruit industry - now used under license across four continents on a range of food products.
  • The Pink LadyTM trademark was originally established for use on apples of the Cripps Pink variety that met specified quality standards. This created a mechanism for grower’s world wide to sell premium quality apples from the variety Cripps Pink at a premium price.
  • The Cripps Pink apple variety was developed by plant breeder John Cripps at Manjimup in Western Australia as part of a breeding program administered by the Department of Agriculture Western Australia.
  • In countries where the trade marks are registered, apples sold under the Pink LadyTM trademarks must meet stringent and specific standards. The trade marks can only be used under license. License holders pay royalties, which cover management of the trade marks - including auditing of fruit quality, branding, brand promotion and protecting the trade marks against illegal use.   In a number of overseas apple producing countries the Cripps Pink variety is protected under plant breeder's rights legislation.

Production

A native of Australia, Pink Lady® — as its name implies — has an attractive pink-blush skin overlying a lime-yellow background. Oblate in shape, this medium to large fruit's sweet-tart flavor is reminiscent of Granny Smith apples. In addition to its thin skin, firm flesh, high sugar-to-acid ratio, and dense crispness, you will also appreciate Pink Lady’s lengthy shelf life.

Pink Lady’s long maturation cycle gives the fruit time to develop its outstanding flavor and also extends our apple growing season well into November. Tree-ripe by mid-October, Pink Lady® has the distinction of being the latest apple picked at some orchards.

Selection & Storage:

Pink Lady® is a premium all-purpose apple, excellent for cooking, baking, and especially for eating out of hand.