Marks and Spencer is pledging to stock 100% English Gala by the 2005 season.

The retailer claims to have grown volumes of the UK fruit from 40% to 95% in just two years, but is now aiming higher.

Annitta Engel, top fruit technologist at M&S, said: “The high standards set by our UK growers over the last few seasons have resulted in a massive increase in the number of fruit. The quality has proved consistently excellent, and we feel the English fruit crop now offers some of the best tasting fruit around.”

The retailer worked with 12 selected growers from Kent, East Anglia, Hampshire and the West Country to supply this season’s Galas, available in store until March.

Engel said fruit was allowed to mature on the tree, allowing its flavour to develop fully.

M&S is also working with growers to develop other UK exclusive programmes, including the Tree Ripe Cox.

At the moment the standard Cox variety currently accounts for around 50% of the total UK apple sales in M&S. Work is also
under way to develop the volumes of UK Braeburn. Although only available for one week last year, M&S is planning to stock the fruit for 10 weeks, prior to Christmas.

Sainsbury has also announced plans to treble Braeburn volumes this season. JS sold 55 tonnes last year, but are anticipating selling more than 150 this season thanks to favourable weather conditions.

Marcus Hoggarth, apple buyer, said: “We have worked hard with our supplier to expand the Braeburn crop to respond to customer demand.”

Sainsbury said it would also be printing farmers’ names and regions of origins on all English apple packs this year.
Ed Bedington