A new pear variety developed by a family team of Shepparton-based orchardists hit the supermarket shelves earlier this year packed with pride and a promise of bigger things to come.
The Red Sienna Pride pear, described as a bold red-velvet colour with a distinctive stout stem and similar in shape to the traditional Packham pear, has been 10 years in the making.
It was developed by James Georgopoulos, son of Goulburn Valley Independent Packers director Chris Georgopoulos, who said it was his son who first found a shoot with a red pear on it at the bottom of a Williams pear tree in the family orchard about eight years ago.
“We were looking for something that would stand out on the shelves,” Chris said.
“Something completely different — we made a decision it's got to be red.
“It just can't be green because it'll get lost in the supermarkets. It has to have a distinction of red — so it stands out.”
For the next two years, James trialled the red pear at a Tasmanian nursery until he found the right one.
“We waited for the season to come around and we actually had one red pear,” Chris said.
“We tasted it and fell in love with it. We were fascinated by the colour and the taste.”
Three seasons later, just as the family decided this was the pear they wanted to grow commercially, tragedy struck when James was diagnosed with bowel cancer at just 24 years old.
A year later in 2015, just after his 25th birthday, James lost his battle with cancer. He left behind a grieving family and his young daughter Sienna.
To cope with their loss, the family members put the development of the new red pear on hold for a year. They then decided to forge ahead as a tribute to their son and brother.
“We said that was his legacy and we'll drive this, with his daughter, and we'll call it Red Sienna Pride,” Chris said.
The pear was trademarked in 2015, while Travis Georgopoulos stepped into his older brother's shoes as orchard manager to help develop Red Sienna Pride to a commercial crop.
The distinctive red pear hit supermarket shelves earlier this year in an exclusive deal with Coles.
Chris said feedback had been encouraging.
“It's been very attractive to a lot of people — people have been buying it just to taste it,” he said.
“They've left comments on our website saying it's an absolutely beautiful pear and it looks amazing in their salad bowl.”
Today, GV Independent Packers has 9000 Red Sienna Pride pear trees in the ground with plans to plant a further 150 000 trees over the next two years.
“All the feedback we've had has been fantastic,” Chris said.
“It's just encouraged us to plant more. The demand obviously is there."