All hands on new pink pineapple in Costa Rica

Pink pineapple

At a time when Costa Rica is experiencing short supplies, demand has shifted to a new genetically modified pineapple, the lycopene-enhanced “Pinkglow” by Fresh Del Monte. 

Fresh Del Monte, a company that grows and distributes pineapples worldwide said on September, 2023 that customers in Costa Rica can’t seem to get enough of this new pink variety. 

Scientists took 17 years to engineer the fruit from a combination of natural chemicals in pineapples known as caroteneids. An extra share of one carotenoid, lycopene, which is also present in tomatoes, is the secret behind the pink tinge. 

The fact that it looks exactly like a pineapple but hides a pink blush inside is perhaps the reason for the popularity. The pink shade emanates from the lack of an enxyme known as lycopene beta-cyclase. In organic pineapples, this enzyme converts lycopene into  beta-carotene, which is the building material for vitamin A. Beta-carotene is usually yellow in colour, but in the new product, its inhibition lends the flesh a brighter blush of pink.

Pinkglow has had a lengthy testing journey since 2005 when scientists first initiated the modification process.

“You have to test it put it in the field…” said Courteney Weber, a plants and genetics researcher at Cornell University.  

Weber added that the fact that it is a wholly new cultivar has added years to its engineering and testing process. 

As such, soon after acquiring the patent, Fresh Del Monte propagated the “Pinkglow” for four years from 2010 to 2014. After studying the plants across four generations, only then could the pineapple come to the public.

Pricing factor

“Pinkglow” has come stark at a time when Costa Rica is experiencing a temporary pineapple shortage.  Del Monte points out that demand for the fruit is getting ahead of the supply potential. 

The price on September 7, 2023 for “Pinkglow” was $10 at retail stores in Costa Rica, while a  2-pound organic pineapple goes for less than $5. There is also word that online resellers are retailing the fruit three to four times the retail cost, at $39.

Phenomenal pineapple industry growth

Costa Rica remains a pineapple haven despite the current lull. For 15 years, the Central American nation has witnessed a 700% growth rate. The pineapple sector alone contributes more than $1.3 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  

To attain this dream, the state had to fell over 5000 hectares of trees in 15 years. This according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In 2022, Costa Rica shipped 2.05 million metric tonnes of pineapples, and ranked second globally by production volume. 

The genetic engineering revolution began with the still- profitable “Honeyglow” pineapple. It was not until the market conquests of “Pinkglow”, however, that the real gains have shown.

These two genetically modified additions will join a list of exotic favorites in Costa Rica that include the golden Oro, the Crownless cultivar and traditional varieties.