Trend Watch: An appetite for apples

02 October 2022, 16:12 PM
  • It’s as easy as apple pie to revitalise the shelves and boost your cheese sales says Sally-Jayne Wright
Trend Watch: An appetite for apples

Apples are the inspiration behind many new food and drink launches in 2022 (consumer trend forecaster, WGSN) and that’s been the case for two years now. Think Starbucks Crisp Apple Macchiato, Captain Morgan Sliced Apple Rum and Bailey’s Apple Pie Liqueur.

While chains such as Wetherspoon’s fly the flag with British Bramley Apple Pie on their dessert menu, chefs give retro puddings a modern twist, viz Ottolenghi’s Miso Apple Charlotte.

What’s behind the trend?
- Seasonality. There’s evidence consumers are more likely to try a new product if it features seasonal flavours
- Health
- Comfort in uncertain times
- Awareness we need to boost our food security. Consumer and retailer sentiment towards UK products is probably as high as it has ever been (agri-food expert John Giles in Fresh Produce Journal)

We’ve always stocked Galas and Braeburns…
It’s time to be more adventurous. There are 2,200 different species of British apple recorded at Brogdale Farm, home of the National Fruit Collection in Faversham, Kent. Yet only 40% of the apples sold at supermarkets are British. This is an opportunity for indies to display their knowledge of heritage varieties and wow cheese-lovers with clever pairings.

Ali Capper, executive chair of the national trade body, British Apples and Pears, says, “Try the 30-40 varieties grown commercially in the UK. Thanks to modern technology you can get British apples year-round, not just in the traditional season of September to February.”

How can we use apples to sell more cheese?
Could you introduce a British apple-and-cheese pairing of the month? Perhaps match sweet, tangy Red Windsors with crumbly white Cheshire. Buy apples little and often and turn unsold fruit into soups and smoothies. Daylesford Organic sell their own apple and chilli chutney, crumbles and apple crumble cake.

At London’s La Fromagerie cheese shop, they plan to co-host a ticketed October tasting event with The Newt, a Somerset cider producer. They’ll pair British and French cheeses with half a dozen ciders.

I read somewhere that nearly half of UK households buy cider.
Yes, and as we’re drinking less but better quality, so crafted and premium apple cider categories have gained market share. We were very impressed with a sample of Sandford Reserve, 7.4%, from Sandford Orchards, Crediton, Devon which won silver in the 2021 World Cider Awards.

Our customers care about the planet. What have you got for them?
10 percent of the profits from One Gin’s award-winning Crisp Apple gin are funding clean water projects in the world’s poorest communities. When you’ve finished the gin, the empty bottle becomes a stylish water carafe. The makers of Avallen Calvados claim they are ‘bee positive’ and even the labels are made from recycled apples.

How can we make the most of the apple trend?
- Tie social media content and in-store promotions to National Apple Day - 21st October, and the Bramley Apple Festival - 29th October
- Tempt health-conscious brunchers with single orchard, cold-pressed apple juice
- Consider meal deals - a fresh apple or apple drink with a roast pork or cheese sandwich, Ploughman’s or pork pie
- Pedal-powered juicers create in-store theatre
- Get kids involved at half term with toffee apple-making workshops

Christmas is coming. What fruity gifts can I stock?
Last year, we gifted Irish Black Butter from Northern Ireland; it won three Great Taste Award stars in 2019 and includes treacle, Armagh Bramley apple, Armagh cider and spices. It’s so moreish spooned straight from the jar it may never make it to the cheeseboard or get used as a glaze for ham.

The presents we would like to receive include: a jar of Rosebud Preserves smoky and piquant Smoked Apple Butter; a bottle of Burren Balsamics’ Bramley Apple Infused Vinegar; and a packet of Suki Tea’s very pretty, loose-leaf Apple Loves Mint fruit tea.

Dry January is just around the corner. What no- and low-alcohol apple drinks can you recommend?
Have you considered hard seltzers (carbonated water combined with alcohol)? We like Bodega Bay Apple, Ginger & Acai, and Percival and Co Apple & Mint Hard Tonic, both in cans and 4% proof.

Drynks Unlimited’s Smashed 0% Cider in cans is properly brewed, smells of alcohol and has a proper head on it. Another option is Sassy’s new 0% organic cidre as sold at Harvey Nichols and launched in January 2022.

Will the trend last?
Yes, because going forward, consumers have plenty to feel anxious about and the familiarity of seasonal ingredients is soothing. Apples represent both simplicity and versatility; time-honoured recipes can be refreshed with such voguish flavours as Lotus Biscoff, maple bacon, jalapeno chilli and blood orange.

Where drinks are concerned, as cider becomes more premium it is increasingly being seen as a quality and more affordable meal accompaniment than wine (Westons Cider Report 2022) and as households cut back, they may well make the swap.

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