Jérôme Jury, producer and president of the ODG Qualité Fruits Plus, is starting his 38th French apricot season. So far, everything is going well. “We started the campaign two weeks ago. Last year was very special, with a limited production and very slow sales, but the situation is completely different this year. The French volumes are good and the competition from Spain is limited. The nice temperatures are favorable for consumption and the high sunshine rate is beneficial for the Brix degree and quality of the apricots. So far, there is a good balance between offer and demand.”
The demand is now focused on taste quality
Quality is key for the ODG (Management and Defense Organization) Qualité Fruits Plus. The goal is to show the qualities of this small stone fruit that has been selected according to visual criteria for too long. “For decades, apricots have been judged by their appearance; a good apricot had to have a nice red color and keep well on the shelves. There are some producers, including me, who have always focused on the taste quality of the fruit, but it has been difficult to change the agricultural and commercial practices regarding arboriculture. Luckily, the situation has evolved in recent years thanks to the desire from consumers to enjoy apricots from France.”
A label that has been reasserting itself
In order to meet this demand for quality, the Red Label apricot was created in 1998. “The initiative was born in the Rhône-Alpes region. We thought that the Red Label was the most suitable certification to appreciate the quality of the fruit, since it truly guarantees excellence in terms of taste. Le label has existed for over 20 years but up until 2016, it did not evolve much, due mainly to the very strict specifications that require no more than 5 days between harvest and marketing, for example. For 5 years, we have tried, together with the ODG Qualité Fruits Plus, to revive the Red Label apricots, peaches and nectarines. We have expanded our range with 9 new varieties which have a high taste potential and whose harvests spread from early June until the 10th of August. For two good months, we are now able to propose Red Label apricots to our clients. Today, the production is well established. Now that we are surrounded by motivated and passionate producers who work very well together, we are ready to develop our sales to meet this demand for quality.”
The seven commercial companies that make up the ODG Qualité Fruits Plus sell their Red Label apricots in the same packaging, a tray of 750g.”
An initiative started by peach and nectarine producers
By promoting their Red Label peaches and nectarines, the ODG Qualité Fruits Plus shows a desire to break with a past when the taste quality of the fruits was too often forgotten. “It is in this context of need to promote taste quality that the Red Label peaches and nectarines were born in 1987. The apricot, faced with the same problems, naturally followed in their footsteps. A lot of effort was then put into improving the varieties of peaches and nectarines. All the varieties that were disappointing in terms of taste have been replaced with a very interesting range of varieties that allow the producers to meet the quality criteria imposed by the Red Label specifications. Producers have also significantly improved their management of the orchards,” explains Anne-Lise Chaussabel, arboriculture consultant at the Chamber of Agriculture of the Drôme department.
Today, the Red Label peaches and nectarines are sold in a new packaging, a tray with 4 fruits.
Although the timelines were different, the peaches, nectarines and apricots were faced with similar problems which led them to this guarantee of excellence in terms of taste which is the Red Label. “The requirements for the apricot are similar as for peaches and nectarines. Maturity must be optimal, sugar levels must be high and the fruits must be firm enough in order to keep well until they reach the final consumer. The fruits must not present any visual defect and their time in fridges must be as limited as possible.”
This quality approach meets very strict specifications and in order to succeed, the remuneration must match the efforts made by the producers, in a context where inflation weakens the market. “This challenge is ambitious, which only makes it more interesting,” explains Jérôme Jury. “The bar is high but we believe in it!”
For more information:
ODG Qualité Fruits Plus