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Building a global apple brand takes time, but worth the effort

An apple is an apple, right? Think again.

When Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen, Derek Corder, and Buks Nel came up with the idea to create a brand for Bigbucks apples adhering to certain standards, they were told it would never work. But lately, as Flash Gala increasingly gains traction in the global market, more and more role players want to get involved in what could possibly become the biggest Gala brand globally.

“An apple is an apple, but the trick for me was to create that individual glow that is created by branding,” explains Anthony, who was one of the founders of the fast-growing Flash Gala brand.

“I don’t think we were prepared for the complexity ahead of us in this globally competitive environment, particularly the decision to brand the variety. But I knew what we were doing. To others, apples are a commodity, but I believe the only way to elevate a commodity line is to give it a name and put it in front of people. Now the same people who warned us that they don’t think it will work agree that it does.”

Admittedly, Bigbucks/Flash Gala is a Gala apple wearing a flashy red jacket, which consumers find attractive.

“The brand is the key that unlocks the bigger door. Its significance is that it is not limited to a certain region, but the world is our opportunity.”

Pink Vein, the owner of Bigbucks, depends on volumes and royalty contributions to invest in the brand and make it a household name.

“We registered the trademark globally according to each country’s law. It was a costly exercise. We had no government or other support and couldn’t afford to put millions behind Flash Gala to send the brand into orbit. We had to build it incrementally, by first selling some Bigbucks apples and then ploughing the royalties back into building the brand,” explains Anthony, adding that it is a long-term process.

Talk of the trade

Bigbucks, a natural Gala mutation with a beautiful red colour, was discovered in January 2011 by Buks Nel in a Corder Gala orchard on Oak Valley Estate in the Elgin Valley. The decision was made early on to market the jewel-red apples under the Flash Gala brand.

According to Henk Griessel, Tru-Cape’s quality assurance manager, Flash Gala is the only branded Gala apple in South Africa.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the largest brand in the Gala family, with the most fruit sold under the brand,” says Henk.

Besides South Africa, Flash Gala is the talk of the trade in countries such as India, Africa, and the Far East.

Strict standards

Coming up with the name was another story. They hired an international consultant to help, but eventually it was Buks who, by a stroke of genius, woke up in the middle of the night with the idea to call it Flash Gala.

The key to the brand’s success was establishing and enforcing strict quality parameters regarding colour and pressure.

“There should be no chance of somebody letting the side down by not packing according to the standards,” emphasises Anthony.

It remains a big challenge to enforce these parameters, as producers are currently expected to police themselves.

For more information, please contact Lucille Botha at or visit Follow Flash Gala on Facebook (@flashgalaapples) or Instagram (flash.gala).