The New Queen of Chilean Plums
The New Queen of Chilean Plums

It grows in perfect conditions in Chile, has a long shelf life after harvesting, and is sweet as honey. With these characteristics, ‘Purple Honey’ has already begun to make its mark on the world and become a winner.

This variety is developed in our country with more than 60 hectares planted and is part of the fruit genetic improvement program developed by the University of Chile.

Rodrigo Infante, Academic and Director of the Plum Genetic Improvement Program at the University of Chile says:

Our country is the main exporter of plums in the world, but the varieties we export as an industry are traditional ones that do not have great taste quality. Therefore, with these new varieties, we will be able to satisfy the most demanding markets.

The project, which covered commercial development and branding, was funded by the National Agency for Research and Development (formerly Conicyt) through the IDeA instrument of the Subdirectorate of Applied Research. Carlos Ladrix, Subdirector of Applied Research, explains that supporting scientific and technological-based innovation is one of the main focuses of the Subdirectorate he heads, within the context of the new institutional framework for science and technology in Chile that gave rise to ANID, following the creation of the Ministry of Science in 2019.

Now, the national fruit industry can count on this new variety, which, among its many attributes, is also adapted to local agroclimatic conditions, expressing its full potential.

Carolina Kusch, Head of the Transfer and Intellectual Property Unit of the Fruit Genetic Improvement and Quality Laboratory of the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences at the University of Chile explains:

Previously, the national fruit industry, in general, for almost all varieties, not just plums, only had varieties that had been developed abroad. Many times, when bringing them to Chile, they did not always adapt to our climatic conditions. Therefore, in that trial and error of seeing if production really works in Chile, a lot of time was lost.

Better production and better quality many days after harvest, another fundamental factor.

As we know, Chile has all its destination markets very far away, so the fruit produced here must travel, and if it does not have great post-harvest potential, it arrives with fairly discreet or already deteriorating quality for end consumers.

Fruit with a Chilean Brand

Fruits with labels. Buying a “Pink Lady” apple is synonymous with sweetness and crunchiness. A guarantee that in the global fruit market is an absolute advantage. And that’s what is starting to happen with ‘Purple Honey,’ which is the first Chilean plum to have brand development, which is unprecedented for this type of fruit.

A multidisciplinary team worked on this, including academic Rodrigo Uribe from the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Chile and an expert in food marketing.

The central element we are trying to build is a culture of products that are offered with a certain production standard, with a certain visual identity, and with certain attributes that remain over time. This means that people will be able to start choosing by name which fruit they want, not just ‘I want plums,’ but ‘I want this plum’ called Purple Honey.

To achieve this, several stages were developed with taste and image tests in Chile, the Netherlands, and Spain. ‘Sweet Pekeetah’ was compared with various foreign varieties, and it immediately stood out for its superior quality compared to what Chile mostly produces. Its texture, sweetness, and color were the most highlighted by those who participated in these tests, which ultimately led to its commercial name: ‘Purple Honey.’

Sweet Potential

Another captivating attribute of this new plum is its taste. A feature that national producers and exporters highlight because it is a winner.

Felipe Espinosa, manager of the export company Neofresh emphasizes:

The most interesting thing about the variety, apart from being productive and well-produced in the area, is that it is a fruit with a lot of sugar, very rich, very crunchy, and it can reach distant markets at high prices.

Thanks to the interest aroused by ‘Purple Honey’ and others that will come in the near future, the Plum Genetic Improvement Group has been formed, the “MeCi” group composed of ten exporting companies.

Sergio Urzúa, Production Manager of the Alessandrini Group comments:

It is the customers who ask for sweet plums, it is the customers who ask for large and later plums, so based on that, the MeCi program works to precisely meet the demands that we have as producers and at the same time meet the requirements of customers.

Genetic Export

Another characteristic of this genetic improvement program is that it has proposed, in a second phase, to export the technology and intellectual property of this new plum species.

Carolina Kusch, Head of the Transfer and Intellectual Property Unit of the Fruit Genetic Improvement and Quality Laboratory of the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences at the University of Chile, comments:

This positions Chile, leaving it in a better place because now you are not only producing what others created, but your creation, which you export as fruit, can also be exported as intellectual property. So the idea is in the near future to export intellectual property and thus, in other parts of the world, they will plant the Chilean variety.

A long but successful process that is already beginning its export, and where state financing has been fundamental for these programs that are long-term.

Joint efforts, development, technology, and national marketing. Excellent news for the country and its fruit industry, which now has a sweet winner, ‘Purple Honey.’

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