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Columbia Marketing International in Wenatchee, WA, is poised to bring the trademarked Kiku apple to the American marketplace.

The grower base was solidified April 2 following the announcement that Applewood Orchards Inc., located in Deerfield, MI, was granted a sub-license to produce the variety. The company joins Columbia Fruit Packers Inc. and Rice Fruit Co. in Gardners, PA, in the Kiku grower-packer triad.

According to Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for CMI, the company holds exclusive rights to market the Kiku in the United States. "This coming season is our kickoff year," he told The Produce News.

The Kiku is a Fuji strain discovered by Luis Braun during his travels in Japan in 1990. "It's a nice striped Fuji," Mr. Mast said.

The variety has been produced in Europe, and Mr. Mast said that consumers would have a chance to taste the fruit later this year. Initial test results indicate that the fructose level in the Kiku is 20 percent higher than in the traditional Fuji, he said.

Mr. Mast added that marketing activities would focus on the distinguishing characteristics that set the Kiku apart from other Fuji strains.

CMI introduced the Kiku on a limited basis in several test markets during the 2008-09 season. During the 2009-10 apple season, the Kiku will be offered to CMI's retail partners.

"As Kiku volume grows, it will be introduced throughout the United States," Mr. Mast said.

CMI plans to roll out the Kiku and talk about the new and unusual packaging options that will be available for the variety at the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit this fall in Anaheim, CA.