The New Zealand-based fruit science company developed the fruit over an eight-year period using apples with natural red flesh but without the appearance, quality or storage requirements to meet commercial standards.
The red-fleshed apple could be an enticing ingredient for functional beverage formulators in particular, and the company unveiled a juice concept along these lines at the IFT Expo in Orlando last month.
In a global market that is ripe for so-called super fruits, the red-fleshed apple stands out because unlike other previously less-know fruits - such as exotic naturally-occurring acai or mangosteen - it is has been crossbred specifically for its nutritional benefits.
The idea behind HortResearch's red-fleshed apple was to crossbreed for a high concentration of anthocyanin - the plant flavenoid which gives the fruit its pigmentation and is believed to have antioxidant properties.
HortResearch is also encouraging formulators to study the red-fleshed apple for its potential in promoting cognitive development. In the past, studies have linked anthocyanin to brain health. "These studies are strongly suggestive that these types of fruit can have a positive effect in this health area," HortResearch business leader Karl Crawford told NutraIngredients-USA.com.
Cognitive function is a focus for HortResearch in other breeding programs as well - such as its ongoing work with blackcurrants which aims for optimal anthocyanin and antioxidant levels to substantiate health claims.
HortResearch says through market research it has found consumers are willing to pay significant price premiums for fruit with novel colors and tastes, as well as added health benefits.
"Even though the fruit is some years from commercialization there has already been considerable interest from the market," said Crawford, adding that the company will apply for a plant variety right to protect its new apple breed.
The juice niche the red-fleshed apple is set to target is a growing market. US sales for functional fruit and vegetable juices rose from $2.2bn in 2002 to $2.4bn in 2005, according to Euromonitor International. The growth in market share for these products was even larger, albeit from a lower base, in Europe over the same period - rising from $1.5bn to $2.4bn.
While taking a new fruit from an early stage to full commercialization can take decades of breeding, HortResearch says that by using the latest genomic science techniques it could be supplying growers with new red-fleshed apple trees in five to six years.
"The red-fleshed breeding line has been singled out for immediate fast-track development mainly because the colour is so appealing," said Crawford.