An ambitious plan to grow and press a heritage range of apple juices has been announced by The Co-operative.

The retailer bought a collection of 1,000 historic apple saplings from the Brogdale apple facility and began planting them this week. It expects to begin pressing juice from the autumn.

Varieties such as Great Expectations, Fairie Queen, Northern Spy, Forty Shillings and Bloody Ploughman will be pressed and blended to create own-brand heritage apple juice to be sold in Co-op stores. They will be marketed under the retailer's 'Grown By Us' label, which already includes a range of UK-grown fresh produce items.

"Some of the apples date back to pre-Victorian times," said William Barnett, head of The Co-operative Farms' 800-acre fruit growing operation at Tillington, Herefordshire. "They were in danger of passing into history, but we wanted to preserve them and keep the varieties alive by finding a commercial use for them."