UK retailers are in danger of running out of English Bramley apples by late June as soaring demand from consumers outstrips supply.
Unprecedented promotional support by the multiples is being credited for Bramley value sales being 14.2% up on last season in the year to 22 October. A similar picture has been noted for English eating apples, with Cox up 12%, Gala up 9.5%, while Conference pears are up 40.3%.
"If sales keep going like this we will be very short of Bramley from late June. Then it's a question of how quickly new crops can be picked," said Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples & Pears.
Any gaps in supply would have to be met by varieties from abroad, he said, though British growers were increasing plantings of Bramley in an attempt to achieve year-round supply and lift volumes above the current 25,000 tonnes.
A major reason for the sales uplift was that retailers were now finding new ways of promoting the variety with better presentation and shelf barkers, added Barlow. On-pack information also explained more clearly that Bramley was a cooking apple.
Retailers have also been pledging strong support for home-produced fruit, Barlow said, with Tesco saying it would not sell imported Gala apples when English produce is in season, and Sainsbury's making a similar promise on Conference pears. As for English eating apples, Gala supplies were likely to be out of stock from the end of this month, while Cox should finish shortly before Easter.
Following a weaker November, top fruit value sales came back strongly in the first three weeks of December with Cox up 9.6% on the previous year, Gala up 18.2%, Bramley up 14.5% and Conference up 17.4%.
Tesco leads the way with a 31.6% share of English apple and pear sales. Sainsbury's has 24.1%, and Asda 9.5%, according to EA&P. Morrisons has made a striking improvement to its share increasing it from 8.3% a year ago to 13.9% now.