Shoppers have been eager to get their hands on Sainsbury's first commercial crop of British Golden Delicious for 20 years. The apple was relaunched last month in 90 London and East Anglian stores.

Sold under the Season's Best label, it has seen "very encouraging" demand at £1.99 for four, and the offer will be extended next year.

Improved packaging has made it possible to sell the thinner-skinned British variety, which is also grown extensively in France, Italy and South Africa.

Specialist techniques allow the fruit to flourish in the cooler British climate, and this year's crop, from Suffolk, has benefited from enhanced conditions from a cold, wet May, a very hot July and a sultry August.

Sainsbury's apple technologist, Peter Czarnobaj, said such a crop could cut the number of Golden Delicious apples imported.

Sainsbury's has already laid claim to the first commercial UK crop of apricots, kiwifruit and sweetcorn.