It’s every kid’s dream – fruit that tastes like lollies.
Australian grape growers are cashing in on a fruit frenzy in the United States, where a horticulturalist has produced a green table grape that tastes just like fairy floss.
‘Cotton candy grapes’ are now being grown in Australia and have been available in supermarkets and fruit shops for a few weeks.
RW Pascoe fruit wholesaler Noel Greenhalgh said they were very different from the grapes most people know.
“They’re very perfumed and very, very sweet – they certainly have the aroma and taste of fairy floss,” Mr Greenhalgh said.
First crop planted in Australia in 2014
The grapes are not the result of genetic modification.
Mildura-based grower Adrian Caia planted the first 50 acres of cotton candy grapes about four years ago.
He said the breeder in America had used special budwood, which was a graft of root stock of plants from different parts of the world, “to cross breed the different varieties together to create the flavour”.
“It’s been grown in America for the past eight seasons and has gained a big following over there because of its unique flavours,” he said.
“We decided to get the rights to grow it in Australia and introduce something new to the market which was a bit more suited to kids.”
He said he had recently started producing enough grapes to supply supermarkets.
“They’re good – they’re probably not my favourite but they’re good – my kids eat them … they love them,” Mr Caia said.
So are they any good for us?
Dietitian and nutritionist Elissa Robins said they were, and that anything that increased the consumption of fruit was to be encouraged.
“We know that half of Australians don’t eat their two serves of fruit per day, so happy for anything to increase those numbers,” she said.
“They’re good for us because they are fruit, and a whole fruit, and they’re are not much higher in sugar content than eating a cup of mango.
“So this might be a way of encouraging a healthy swap for a sweet treat – I think it’s wonderful.”
Cotton candy grapes create social media sensation
The grapes created a social media storm in the US when they were released, with more than 32,000 mentions of the hashtag #cottoncandygrapes on Instagram.
Mr Greenhalgh was not so sure it would be the hit in Australia that it was in the US.
“No, it’ll stay a specialty item – my experience of Australian consumers is that they are fairly content and happy with the varieties that we have,” he said.
He said he thought the cost would put people off.
“The price point is a little bit higher, and that’s down to the fact that there are not huge production numbers,” he said.
“Thompson Seedless [grapes] sell for anywhere from $3 to $5 per kilo, and I think the cotton candy is selling for $6 to $8 a kilo – there’s a premium for it.”
Mr Greenhalgh said there were other varieties of grapes in Australia that were taking off in bigger numbers.
“Sweet Sapphire grapes are like a finger grape – it’s the length of your small finger, it’s a lean, thin, narrow grape and it’s absolutely outstanding,” he said.
“In my opinion, it’s totally better than the Cotton Candy – it’s absolutely divine and the success rate for that, particularly in China, is outrageous.
“They’re selling for up to $200 for a 10-kilogram carton, or $20 per kilo, and they can’t get enough of them,” he said.
The growing season for cotton candy grapes is short, and they will only be available for about another four weeks.