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Completed project

Bridging the knowledge-gap to breed high-value, flavonoid-rich apples (AP12036)

Key research provider: Western Australian Agriculture Authority
Publication date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What was it all about?

While consumers are aware that apples have considerable health qualities, this project sought to investigate opportunities to grow more nutritious apple varieties to increase the desirability of the fruit and growing value. Other foods are marketed based on higher levels of antioxidants, which are also found in apples. The research team wanted to know if new varieties of apples could be marketed as functional foods – a huge and growing market.

Researchers began by establishing the amount of an antioxidant, known as flavonoids, in over 90 varieties of apples in the Australian National Apple Breeding Program, based in WA.

They found considerable variation in levels between varieties which means that breeding of new varieties with high flavonoid content can be achieved.

Importantly, they also confirmed that the range of flavonoid content in apples compared favourably with other naturally flavonoid-rich foods associated with health such as grape seeds, prune juice, green tea and coffee.

The research team believes that breeding and selection of new flavonoid-rich apples is achievable within five to ten years.

In addition to the flavonoid level work, the research team also investigated the impact of health claims on the purchasing decisions of consumers. They undertook market research by reviewing social media sites and blogs related to health, as well as setting up focus groups and an online consumer panel to find out how much effect beliefs about health benefits have on decision making, compared with other factors such as price, organic status, colour, flavour, and texture.

Results revealed a strong association of apples with health, fitness, diet and antioxidants, but also found that the principal drivers of purchase were price and appearance. Antioxidants were an important consideration in purchase decisions, and more-so than organic status, but more work is needed to establish the degree to which consumers relate colour to a healthy value. This could be an important factor in breeding trials.

The researchers report, published in 2016, recommends that apples be put forward for assessment as a functional food with cardiovascular benefits. This would allow access to the much larger global functional food market for flavonoid-rich apples.


The researchers added information from their study onto the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development site. Access the links below:

Related levy funds


Funding statement:
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2017. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).