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Cosmic Crisp® , lots of interest in the first commercial trials

Cosmic Crisp® , lots of interest in the first commercial trials

Very positive feedback from the wholesale markets. Demand is already high with volumes expected to grow in the coming years.

A decidedly positive debut which, following the first tastings, has sparked the interest of the market with levels of demand already high. The first commercial trial campaign for the Cosmic Crisp® , the new apple cultivated and marketed in Europe exclusively by the VOG and VIP Consortia of South Tyrol – Südtirol, has got off to a flying start.

Officially presented in late January at the 2021 Apple Summit, the Cosmic Crisp® is a cross between the Enterprise and the Honeycrisp and stands out for its remarkable juiciness, firm crunch and particularly balanced flavour. A sensory experience perfectly encapsulated by the claim “Heavenly taste. With every bite” and by the faces chosen for the European communication campaign, which mirror the naturalness, luxury and exclusiveness of the apples. All aspects that wholesale market professionals were able to verify and appreciate during the first tastings.

“We are really pleased with the initial feedback we have collected from many expert professionals in the wholesale markets” comments Klaus Hölzl, sales manager of the VOG Consortium. “Cosmic Crisp® is popular for its texture and for the explosion of flavour and intensity apparent from the very first bite”. Thanks to the first trade marketing activities in support of customers, industry professionals have been able to get to know and appreciate the qualities of this new product. “We have organised tastings so greengrocers and specialist wholesalers can try the Cosmic Crisp® . We have also distributed illustrative materials that they can use in their shops to communicate the qualities of this incredible apple to consumers”.

The South Tyrolean consortia have already reserved 500 hectares of land for the cultivation of this new variety and following these first tests will launch greater quantities of the product on the market as of the 2021-2022 sales season. “Cosmic Crisp® is an apple with an excellent shelf life and is perfect for the second half of the sales season, from February through to August”, explains Fabio Zanesco, sales director of VIP. “This year we began with the first 100 tonnes, a clearly limited amount but ideal for this launch phase which enables us to receive lots of useful feedback, as has been the case in the last few days. As of next season we will gradually ramp up both distribution and sales thanks to the availability of increasing volumes that will enable us to satisfy the already high level of demand”.

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More than 100 millon Marlene® apples make their debut with the new image

More than 100 millon Marlene® apples make their debut with the new image
Walter Pardatscher, General Manager VOG

From February, the artwork that won the 25th anniversary digital contest will feature on all stickers.

In the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables, more than 100 million apples will bring a splash of colour to greengrocery departments the world over with Marlene® ’s new look. After the conclusion of the digital contest run by the VOG Consortium to celebrate the South Tyrolean apple’s 25th birthday, the time has now come for the winning artwork, by artist Francesca Cito, to make its market debut.

“Marlene® ’s new look for the rest of the season will feature the beautiful nymph against the natural backdrop of our Alpine home,” explains VOG Consortium Marketing Manager Hannes Tauber. “She will appear not only on Marlene® apple stickers but also on the primary and secondary packaging and all in-store materials, as well as on the special celebratory labels.” A number of in-store activities will also be organised: art exhibitions, point-of-purchase material and special positioning to bring the artworks closer to consumers and redesign fruit and vegetable departments with the distinctive Marlene® colours and artistic language.

The digital contest, in which consumers were asked to create and send in a drawing or image that evoked the world of Marlene® apples, attracted more than 6000 entries from 36 countries. “This high response made the event a resounding success; for the first time, consumers became the protagonists and helped to create the face and image of a very well known international brand, Marlene® , shaping it using their creativity and imagination,” commented VOG Consortium CEO Walter Pardatscher. “This is a new way of communicating, which brings a touch of art into stores, with a positive mood of joy and warmth. The project forms part of the Consortium’s innovative approach, and we hope it will inspire our partners and consumers.”

Marlene® ’s new identity will also be promoted through a high-impact international campaign on TV, in the traditional press and on line. In this phase 25 stories, one for each year of Marlene® ’s life, will combine to tell the tale of the wonderful adventure which began in 1995, and which has now made Marlene® one of the best known, most popular fruit and vegetable sector brands. The project will also star the producers, since their hard work and passion are fundamental to the success of Marlene® apples. But the 25th birthday celebrations will not end here: in spring there will be various specific social media contents and a new contest, again involving Italian and international consumers, with recipes from the many countries where the blue sticker apples are a familiar presence.

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Tasty Trend³: VOG and VIP present a trio of new apple varieties

Tasty Trend³: VOG and VIP present a trio of new apple varieties
Press release & photos: Fruitecom

RedPop®, Cosmic Crisp®, Giga®: 3 new apples facing the world

Tastes vary – and they change. That is why the South Tyrolean apple sector is always on the lookout for new varieties to add to and extend its range. Three new varieties have now found their way into the South Tyrolean apple growing community, which means they will soon be available everywhere. Apple Consortiums VOG and VIP presented the three new varieties at the International Apple Summit 2021 held digitally on 27 January 2021 in Bolzano with the title “Tasty Trend³”.

Alongside leaders of the South Tyrolean fruit sector, the speakers included fruit growers, technicians, breeders, researchers, marketing experts, and taste professionals. “The diversity and innovation of varieties is in the DNA of VOG; the key selection criteria of course include the taste of the apples, but also the characteristics of the varieties in cultivation and storage ability, as well as in terms of market trends and consumer needs,” said VOG chair Georg Kössler. Thomas Oberhofer, VIP chair, underlined the advantages of South Tyrol in cultivating a wide range of varieties: “The many different altitudes and the blend of Alpine and Mediterranean climate provide excellent conditions for many different varieties. This means that quality products truly thrive here, both in integrated and organic farming.” The new varieties are also a good fit for the South Tyrolean fruit growing community’s drive towards increasing sustainability: two of the new varieties (Ipador/Giga® and CIVM49/RedPop®) are scab resistant, making it possible to significantly reduce the amount of plant protection measures. All three varieties are also intended for organic farming.

VOG director Walter Pardatscher explained the consortium’s varietal strategy, which would see no variety making up more than 25% of total production: “We have to position ourselves even more broadly and offer a diverse range that can meet all future consumer needs.” The next few years will therefore see the South Tyrolean farming community take up more new apples. Martin Pinzger, director of VIP, reiterated the strategy of cultivating Golden Delicious in future as Val Venosta’s most important variety, yet continuing to add further red and bi-coloured apples to the range. “We will still focus heavily on natural and sustainable cultivation. Organic farming, which already makes up 20% of cultivated land in Val Venosta, is a good example of this.” South Tyrol will therefore continue to position itself as a reliable supplier of high-quality apples with modern and market-oriented properties.

As it is important to be able to supply customers with a wide range of apples throughout the year, storage ability takes on a particularly key role – one in which these new varieties excel. That is why they will come to market in the second half of the season.

Consumer needs and market demands are indeed constantly changing. For Helwig Schwartau, an expert from AMI (Agricultural Market Information Company) in Hamburg, the quality and taste of apples are playing an ever more important role for consumers. Each variety needs a clear brand and marketing strategy in order to be a market success. And one has been developed for each of the three varieties.

Hannes Tauber and Benjamin Laimer, marketing experts at VOG and VIP, introduced the newly developed brand names Giga® and RedPop® and explained the brand communication for Cosmic Crisp®, which has been specifically adapted for the European market. The head pomologist at Laimburg Research Centre, Walter Guerra, spoke about the characteristics of the apples in terms of cultivation, storage ability and taste. Apple growers Sonja Matzneller, Michl Bradlwarter and Karl Dietl reported on their initial introduction to the different varieties and about their first experiences of growing them. The breeders responsible for creating the varieties commented on this and their motives for doing so: Nicolas Stevens, from Belgian breeding institute Better3Fruit (Ipador – Giga®), Bruce Barritt from Washington State University (WA38 – Cosmic Crisp®) and Marco Bertolazzi from the Consorzio Italiano Vivaisti in Ferrara (CIVM49 – RedPop®).

Since taste is ultimately critical, this aspect was given special prominence at the International Apple Summit 2021: presenter Anna Zangerle invited apple expert Vera Platzgummer from the Variety Innovation Consortium South Tyrol on stage, along with sommelier Claudia Rier and star chef Martin Obermarzoner. These three tasted the apples and shared their impressions and taste sensations, visualizing them using an aroma wheel. The international trade audience also got a taste: as the International Apple Summit 2021 had to be held as an online event due to coronavirus, invited international guests were sent a tasting box of apples along with the necessary equipment and instructions in advance.

From apple variety to brand

Ipador, WA38, CIVM49: The names of apple varieties are not always easy on the ear, but they do serve to categorize them in a first phase at breeding institutes. As soon as an apple variety enters the phase of commercial production, the search is generally on for a memorable and attractive name for consumers. Apples that meet the quality demands of the brand are then marketed under the brand name. This means that consumers will find the brand quality of the Ipador variety on the shelves as Giga®, WA38 as Cosmic Crisp®, and CIVM49 as RedPop®. All three varieties have a separate, clear brand identity and characteristic market positioning.

All three varieties are also grown organically.

Ipador –Giga®


Better3Fruit N.V., a breeding institute based in Rillaar, Belgium, is the owner of the variety and brand. The International Pome Fruit Alliance Ltd. (IPA) owns the global master licence for allocating cultivation rights. VOG is the first to introduce Giga® apples in Europe.

This variety is resistant to scab, which has the advantage of reducing the need for plant protection products.

The fruit is large and has an extremely good storage ability. Its taste is very intense with a very balanced sweet / tangy taste. The taste is full-bodied with flavour notes ranging from banana to honey to cinnamon and dried fruits.

The flesh is particularly firm. Giga® is stored for several months to reach perfect ripeness.

The Giga® brand name reflects the characteristics of the apple and it is presented with a clear, memorable logo and “mighty good” slogan positioning.

WA38 – Cosmic Crisp®

The WSU – Washington State University in Wenatchee, USA – owns this variety and brand. Bruce Barritt is the breeder.

Proprietary Variety Management (PVM), from Yakima, USA, owns the master licence for allocating global cultivation rights. Both associations have already started commercial cultivation and will have the first commercial quantities available after the 2021 harvest. Initial tests are being carried out with selected customers during this current season.

This variety has a good storage ability, the fruit remains very crisp and juicy whilst keeping its full flavour, which ranges from exotic fruit to kiwifruit and gooseberry to orange peel.

The fruit has a special texture, its cells are about twice as large as in other apples.

Cosmic Crisp® has already been introduced in the US and is now entering European market thanks to the partnership with South Tyrol’s apple sector.

The brand logo has been directly transferred from the US branding without change, as has the colour scheme. The imagery, however, has been adapted to European requirements and depicts photos of moments of enjoy. The brand slogan is: “Heavenly taste. With every bite.”

CIVM49 – RedPop®

Consorzio Italiano Vivaisti (CIV) in Ferrara, Italy, owns this variety and brand. The Consortium of South Tyrolean Fruit Growers Cooperatives (VOG) and the Association of Val Venosta Producers of Fruit and Vegetables (VIP) own the master licence for allocating European cultivation rights. VOG is the first to introduce the apple.

This variety is resistant to scab and has a very good storage ability; the fruit grows up to a manageable size and it is an intense red.

The flesh is firm, has a very sweet taste and is both juicy and crisp. The flavours range from plum to elderflower to dried fruit and honey sweetness.

The RedPop® brand name is based on the properties of the apple – handy, striking in flavour and appearance, and modern. The brand slogan is: “Little big sweet.”

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VOG partners with Sustainapple, the South Tyrolean apple consortium´s sustainability strategy

VOG partners with Sustainapple, the South Tyrolean apple consortium´s sustainability strategy

The shared sustainability plan for the South Tyrol – Südtirol apple segment is now underway

(Bolzano, January 14) Consisting of three action areas and a binding schedule, it is designed to effectively and systematically pursue sustainability. Following a multi-year process, South Tyrolean fruit growing has developed a strategic concept called sustainapple.

The project involved the VOG Consortium together with numerous organisations from the fruitgrowing sector in South Tyrol. “The search for a balance between ecology and economy, innovation and tradition, economic sustainability and social sustainability has always been central to our work,” remarked Georg Kössler, Chairman of VOG and the South Tyrolean Apple Consortium, when presenting the strategy, which was developed in consultation with experienced sustainability experts Alfred Strigl and Sylvia Brenzel.

The sustainapple project, which incorporates the 17 goals for the sustainable development of the planet (the so-called SDGs – Sustainable Development Goals) set by the United Nations, is divided into three main action areas: “The South Tyrolean Apple as a global success model”, “We promote healthy eating” and “In partnership with nature”. These areas are in turn organised into sub-areas with action plans that will be implemented following a precise schedule. A wooden toolbox will be distributed to all trade professionals in the near future. It will contain all the important information about the current sustainability situation in South Tyrol’s fruit-growing industry, all the measures that will be jointly implemented in the coming years, information on the various sectors and work documents such as the sustainability self-assessment.

“It is a project that highlights the sustainable approach that the South Tyrolean apple-growing sector has been pursuing for some time,” commented Walter Pardatscher, CEO of VOG. “It is a useful tool that indicates the way forward. Our Consortium’s decisions have long been guided by the concept of sustainability. All the apples are grown using either integrated production or organic farming. 47% of the electricity used for apple storage is self-generated by the cooperatives and comes from photovoltaic plants.


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VOG: 2020 crop slight smaller, expansion in club and organic apples

VOG partners with Sustainapple, the South Tyrolean apple consortium´s sustainability strategy

                                                                                                                                                                                          Press release

Optimism regarding the new season, thanks also to larger sizes, for the Terlano Consortium that turns 75 today. Volumes of new varieties and organic apples continue to grow, while the Golden Delicious crop shrinks.  

While the 2019/2020 season will be remembered for the large drop in volumes both in Italy and across Europe, and above all for the market upheavals triggered by the onset of the health emergency arising from the global pandemic, the season which has just begun shows every sign of being one of consolidation, with an additional fall in total crop at the European level but a recovery in terms of sizes, which return to normal. 

“2020-2021 looks like being a positive season, especially for our Consortium, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. This major milestone underlines the length of our experience, which we combine with a constant determination and flair for innovation and renewal,” comments Walter Pardatscher, CEO of VOG. ”The season that is just ending was emblematic from this point of view: the arrival of Covid-19 demanded quick reactions to deal with a fast-changing scenario, initially in terms of organisation and then with regard to consumption patterns. Our cooperatives showed the ability to respond fast and effectively: we succeeded in planning the season well with continual changes, adapting to events as they happened. This gives us great confidence.” 

At the European level, according to the estimates published by Prognosfruit, a very small reduction of around 1% is forecast for 2020, following on from the much larger decrease in 2019. “Europe-wide, supply should be in line with potential demand again this year, which is definitely a positive signal,” Mr Pardatscher continues. “In South Tyrol – Südtirol the estimates indicate a reduction of about 7%, meaning a crop of about 825,000 tonnes, with considerable growth in organic apples and a decrease in those intended for the food industry”. For its member cooperatives, the VOG Consortium is forecasting a table apple crop of about 510,000 tonnes, a little lower than last year, with a reduction of -3%, and obviously below the record year of 2016, when the figure exceeded 600,000 tonnes.  

The first apples to be harvested this year have again been the Royal Gala, beginning earlier than usual. The first pallets were actually offered for sale during the week of 15 August. Ripeness and colour are good, thanks in part to the weather conditions in July, with ideal temperatures and excellent day-night temperature variation. Sizes are larger than in 2019, in line with the average for a normal year, an important factor for markets such as Italy and Spain. 
Taking a detailed look at the estimates for the individual varieties, this year the Consortium is again recording a reduction in Golden Delicious. “As forecast, and in line with our strategy in terms of varieties, this year the Golden Delicious crop will fall to 87,500 tonnes, meaning 14.5% less than in 2019, when there was already a 15% drop in production of this variety,” the VOG CEO continues. “As in previous years, Royal Gala apples will be the lead variety for our group in volume terms, with output of about 125,000 tonnes (+8%) this year. Red Delicious and Granny Smith will also be on the increase, as so far they have suffered less from brown marmorated stink bug damage than last year.” 

Turning to Club apples, crop sizes are on the rise for Pink Lady® and Kanzi®, and for newer apples, increasingly popular with the market, such as envytm and yello®, with the entry into production of the orchards planted in the last few years in accordance with the varietal planning drawn up by VOG. 

Last but not least some details regarding the organic apples: this year’s crop, of almost 30,000 tonnes, will surge by 40% compared to 2019. “We’re planning to reach a total of 1000 hectares by 2022 and are well on track for this target, confirming the Consortium’s interest in organic and biodynamic growing methods,” comments Walter Pardatscher.  

The VOG Consortium is therefore optimistic regarding the season that has just begun. “The market is free from inventory that could have overlapped with the new crop of fresh apples, so everything is in place for trouble-free business in this initial part of the season,” the VOG CEO concludes. “Thanks to our varietal programming plans, we’re ready to supply our customers and consumers with the right apple for every time of year.”  

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The apple sector chooses Macfrut Digital

The apple sector chooses Macfrut Digital

The apple sector chooses Macfrut Digital (8-10 September 2020) and the opportunity it offers to make new business contacts. In fact, all the major apple producers and consortia – apples are Italy’s most exported fruit – have also joined the event. The apple sector is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Italian fruit and vegetable industry, which has taken further steps towards internationalisation since the recent opening of the Thai and Vietnamese markets.

At Macfrut Digital will attend key players in the sector as Melinda, La Trentina, Rivoira, VIP and VOG. Participants will also include leading Italian fruit and vegetable exporters such as Alegra, Apofruit, Granfrutta Zani, Jingold, Mazzoni, Naturitalia, Novafruit, Opera, Opo Veneto, Oranfrizer, Origine, RK Growers and Spreafico.

The campaign to promote exhibiting companies continues: webinars have been organised to allow anyone interested to find out more about Macfrut Digital. The next webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, 14 July (11am) and Thursday, 16 July (3pm).

The apple sector has its say

Why has the apple sector chosen Macfrut Digital? Here is what those involved had to say.

Andrea Fedrizzi, Marketing and Communications Manager of Melinda: ‘For many years now, Macfrut has been a benchmark event for professionals working in the Italian and European fruit and vegetable industry, as well as being an occasion for us to meet some of our major customers, our production partners and other sector specialists. Although it was impossible to host a physical event this year, it is still extremely important for us to participate. First of all, it will help us to examine the situation and better understand how it will evolve and to assess the impact that this health emergency has had on our sector, since it has inevitably changed and will continue to change the way we live and work. I believe our participation also somehow demonstrates how resilient our companies are, as they are always ready to adapt to new situations and work together in a cohesive way.’

Marco Rivoira, CEO of Gruppo Rivoira: ‘For our Group, exporting has always been a key market strategy based on establishing close and long-lasting relationships with our customers all over the world. The Covid-19 emergency has prompted us to reinvent ourselves from a commercial standpoint; it has been a major challenge, but we gladly accepted it and were willing to get involved in a new way, that is online business meetings, web conferences and, last but not least, by participating in a virtual or digital trade fair such as Macfrut 2020. The world is changing and so is our strategic sector: as a result, we are renewing ourselves so that we can grow and improve as professionals and as a company.’

Fabio Zanesco, commercial manager of VIP: ‘This is a completely new situation for us, and our sector now needs to have a meeting place – which has to be virtual given the current global circumstances – so that we can analyse the situation and rekindle our desire to exchange views. As apple producers, we have been working intensively to be able to guarantee supplies during the most critical stages of the crisis. The time has come to look ahead to the coming season and adopt a more creative approach so that we can tackle changes together with our customers, partners and suppliers. Exchanging ideas is essential so that we do not keep repeating what we have always done. I also think that hosting a “digital” version of the event was definitely the best decision the organisers could make; we are preparing ourselves so that we can make the most out of the tools that Macfrut will provide us with. See you in September!’

Walter Pardatscher, General Manager of VOG (Consortium of South Tyrolean Fruit Growers’ Co-operatives): “Innovation and flexibility have always been the core values of our Consortium: these two aspects are essential for us to be able to respond to market changes. And this year especially, because of the pandemic, they have proved to be crucial. So we were naturally delighted when the organisers announced that they would host Macfrut Digital, which is a clever solution to turn a critical situation into an opportunity. We will introduce the unique features of the VOG Consortium, which is the ideal partner for Italian and international customers: we offer an extensive range of superior quality apples along with powerful, well-known brands that are professionally managed and, above all, popular among consumers. And we do this throughout the year.’

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First Italian apples to land in Vietnam 

First Italian apples to land in Vietnam 


After five years of negotiations, Italian cooperative VOG has announced the export of the first shipment of Italian-grown apples to Vietnam. The first shipment will consist of 8 tons of South-Tyrolean apples. The biggest hurdle to be overcome during negotiations was clarification of phytosanitary requirements. These matters have now been resolved following several site inspections conducted by the Asian plant protection authority. 

Director of VOG, Walter Pardatscher, said, “With this first delivery to Vietnam, not just our association but the entire national apple market has reached a major milestone. No apple has ever been shipped from Italy to Vietnam before. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Assomela, the representative of the interests of Italian apple producers, and hope that we can consolidate and continue our cooperation with Vietnam in the near future.”

VOG now intends to expand also into the markets of Taiwan and Thailand.

TAGS: VOG, apple, Italy, Vietnam

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YELLO® apple lands in Australia

Credit: VOG


Having already conquered Japan and Europe, the Shinano Gold variety crosses new frontiers. The innovative yello® club apple produced in South Tyrol exclusively by the VOG and VIP consortiums, will roll out an extensive expansion programme. At Fruit Logistica, the VOG and VIP consortiums signed an agreement with Montague Australia for the cultivation of Shinano Gold. More detailed tests are also being launched in the United States and South Africa.

Attending this important moment were the president of the VOG Consortium, Georg Kössler, the president of VIP, Thomas Oberhofer, representatives of Montague Australia, Scott Montague and Rowan Little, and Gerhard Dichgans, responsible for the project. “The sub-license foresees, for the moment, the cultivation of twenty-five hectares, although there is the option to extend the surface up to fifty hectares,” said Georg Kössler, speaking on behalf of the two consortiums, VOG and VIP.

“In Australia, the tests carried out have yielded very positive results,” said Scott Montague, of the Montague company, based in the state of Victoria, Australia. “The territory in which we have planted the first apple trees has proven to be especially suitable for growing this premium variety. This is why we have stipulated the sub-license agreement with VOG and VIP: so in Australia we can also produce the first quantities of yello®”.

As part of the extension of a test contract agreed with Nagano Prefecture in Japan, more Shinano Gold apple trees will be planted in the United States and South Africa. The tests will be carried out in collaboration with Columbia Fruit Packers and McDougall & Sons, two companies of Wenatchee, in the state of Washington (United States of America) and Fruitways Farming, company of Elgin (South Africa), three historical partners of VI.P and VOG within the International Pomefruit Alliance (IPA).

“This new apple has all the potential to change the segment of yellow-skinned apples: with its slightly exotic and tropical aroma, its crispy and juicy pulp, it responds to the demands of the modern consumer,” underlines Gerhard Dichgans, who has perfected the contract on behalf of VIP and VOG. “We have already registered the yello® brand in more than sixty countries and as of this year we began to expand its borders in a very concrete way throughout the world.”

The variety, marketed under the yello® brand, is called Shinano Gold and was developed in Japan, thanks to a development programme of the Nagano Experimentation Centre, which crossed the Golden Delicious and the Senshu.

yello® has a full yellow skin, a firm texture and a sweet, crispy and juicy heart. It also distinguishes itself by offering excellent conservability and a remarkable qualitative record. It was first marketed in Italy in November 2016. Thanks to the agreement with Nagano Prefecture, the worldwide exclusive production and marketing license belongs to VOG, the Consortium of Fruit and Fruit Cooperatives of Südtirol, and VIP, the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Producers of Val Venosta.

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Change at the top of VOG Consortium

VOG partners with Sustainapple, the South Tyrolean apple consortium´s sustainability strategy

There has been a changing of the guard in the management of VOG, the Consortium of South Tyrolean Fruit Growers’ Cooperatives, which brings together almost 5,000 members specialised in apple production. On 28 August 2019, at the “House of Apples” in Terlano, Gerhard Dichgans, who had been CEO of the VOG Consortium for 29 years, officially “passed the torch” to the new CEO, Walter Pardatscher.

The change formally took place on 1 August, at the start of the new sales season, and the handover was in fact decided last autumn, following a selection process by the Consortium’s top management. Dichgans will continue to oversee several projects for the Alto Adige Variety Innovation Consortium on behalf of VI.P Val Venosta and VOG in Terlano.

A determined, stubborn man with a deep knowledge of the sector and markets, Dichgans, who was born in 1952 and graduated in economics from the University of Fribourg, joined the large VOG family in 1985, first as an export manager then as Head of Sales, before his appointment as the Consortium’s CEO in 1990. During his time as CEO, he led major changes in the Consortium in terms of organisation, assortment modernization, turnover growth and development of new markets. For the members of the Consortium, he always represented an important point of reference, partly thanks to his ability to work as a team player and to keep the management focused on strategic objectives. He was responsible for the introduction of the Marlene® brand with its unmistakable “blue sticker”, which distinguishes the quality of South Tyrol – Südtirol apples for all consumers.

“Clearly, I am proud of the goals achieved over the years,” comments Dichgans, “and I am especially pleased to pass on to my successor – to whom I naturally extend my best wishes – a company that is healthy and forward-looking, both in terms of turnover and of ongoing variety innovation projects. There are many new challenges and there is certainly all to play for with regard to international competitiveness. I arrived at VOG when the world was still divided by the Cold War, while today we talk about the global market.”

The new CEO, Walter Pardatscher, aged 48, has been mainly known until now as chairman and CEO of Autostrada del Brennero S.p.A. However, his roots and part of his professional work are closely connected to the agricultural world and in particular to fruit growing. Growing up on his family’s farm, he attended the Agricultural Institute of Ora and subsequently graduated from the University of Trento and University of Innsbruck. In addition to being a freelancer, he joined several boards of directors in which he offered his knowledge and skills in engineering and business management. In the agricultural sector, from 1999 to 2005, Pardatscher served as chairman of the South Tyrolean Young Farmers Union. Since 1996 he has been a member of the board of directors of the Kurmark-Unifrut fruit cooperative, serving as chairman in the last three years. In this capacity he became a member of VOG’s Board of Directors. Walter Pardatscher is therefore an “insider” within the South Tyrolean fruit world, as well as an experienced CEO of large companies.

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Apples, still-high europea stocks put the brake on price recovery

Apples, still-high europea stocks put the brake on price recovery

VOG Consortium CEO Gerhard Dichgans explains how the situation is evolving, in Italy and internationally. 

“As the export season begins in the Southern Hemisphere, the European apple market is still under pressure, with high stock levels putting the dampers on hopes of a forthcoming recovery in prices.” These are the words of Gerhard Dichgans, CEO of the VOG Consortium, in his latest update on the current international situation.

According to WAPA (World Apple and Pear Association) figures, stocks as of the first of April amounted to 2.3 million tonnes, not just 1.1 million more than the “lean year” of 2017/2018, but also 210,000 tonnes more than a normal season such as 2016/2017. There are surplus stocks not only in Poland but also in the historic production areas in western Europe. “The run-down in European stocks in February and March was below average,” Mr Dichgans states, “in spite of low prices and fiercely competitive quotes from growers. So the hopes for market recovery present at the start of the year have been confirmed only in part, with large differences between one variety and another.”

For the VOG Consortium’s apples, specifically, sales to Italian large-scale distributors have progressed well during the last two months, but the wholesale markets are still sluggish. Customers in Germany, which has been dominated by local supplies so far, are starting to up their purchases from South Tyrol – Südtirol, to bridge the gap over the coming months until imports from the Southern Hemisphere really come on stream. The UK and Scandinavia continue to be active, but, as forecast, Eastern Europe is still at a standstill. However, exports to Mediterranean countries are a pleasant surprise. Once again, the Middle East is proving to be a reliable destination. And as in the past, the huge Indian market is making the crucial difference; it has opened up to exports from Italy, since China (with its poor crop) and the USA have halved their supplies of apples.

“This highly fragmented picture on the markets we serve is perfectly reflected in the stock reduction trends of the individual varieties,” the VOG CEO comments. “The sales season for Royal Gala closed at the end of March, with constant demand from the Mediterranean countries helping us to keep in line with our sales plan. India has been our salvation for Red Delicious, although sales of the same variety are also on the increase in the Middle East after the end of the Royal Gala season. Demand for Granny Smiths has been moderate but steady across all markets. However, the situation for Golden Delicious and Braeburn is completely different. Concerning the Braeburn variety, the large local crop in Germany means the markets have been under pressure ever since the autumn, with very few openings for imports. It is only now that the large chains’ buyers are contacting us to plan the weeks left before the arrival of New Zealand Braeburns. The most relevant market for Golden Delicious is Italy: quotations are still low, fuelled by continual promotional offers which, however, are showing no signs of stimulating consumer demand. This variety is being further penalised by a high percentage of rusty and second grade apples, which are proving hard to sell in view of a plentiful offering of first grade fruit. This “heaviness” of the Italian market is surprising, since the product availability is in line with the average of the last 3 seasons – with the exception of 2017/2018 – and, considering the low first grade ‘pack-out’ percentage, there is actually a shortfall.”

Everyone on the market is now shifting their attention to the final phase of the sales season, which could be positive. “Southern hemisphere crop estimates,” Mr Dichgans explains, “lead us to hope that the quantity of apples available for shipping to Europe is lower than predicted. New Zealand, for example, has cut its estimates by 10%. Exporters from the Southern Hemisphere will focus first on the more lucrative markets in South East Asia, leaving Europe aside. Forecasts for exports to south-eastern Asia seem to be promising, in view of the poor Chinese crop I mentioned earlier.”

Initial import statistics confirm these expectations: by the end of March only 10,000 tonnes had reached Europe, while in the two previous years incoming volumes from the Southern Hemisphere were almost four times this amount. Imports will only increase for Club applies like Pink Lady®, for which European growers are unable to provide year-round coverage. “This will enable Europe to concentrate on disposing of its stocks,” Mr Dichgans concludes, “without having to worry about competition from imported apples. However, there is still a lot of the sales season to go, and there is no doubt that Golden Delicious stocks will hold out until September, overlapping with the arrival of the new 2019 crop. I wouldn’t expect any significant price increase in the coming months, partly because existing inventories make continuous sell-out essential.”