Apple marketers from around the world have joined forces to bring red-flesh apples to market within five years.

In October, 12 marketers from five continents created IFORED, a consortium whose goal is to produce and market several varieties of red-flesh apples.

The new company is an offshoot of Angers, France-based International Fruit Obtention (IFO), a company dedicated to the development of new fruit varieties.

Representing North America in IFORED is Next Big Thing, a grower cooperative formed by Lake City, Minn.-based Pepin Heights Orchards in 2006 to grow and market the SweeTango apple variety. Next Big Thing is made up of about 45 U.S. and Canadian growers.

Next Best Thing’s president, Tim Byrne, attended the October meeting in France where IFORED was formed. He estimated that 85-90% of his growers will grow red-fleshed varieties, and said they should be on North American retail shelves in four or five years.

“There’s some real strong commercial promise” in several of the 22 red-flesh varieties Byrne and four other Next Big Thing representatives tried in France in October, he said.

In addition to the distinctive flesh color, several varieties feature unique flavors, including notes of strawberries, mangoes and citrus, Byrne said.

The first North American test plots of red-flesh apples will be planted by Next Big Thing growers next spring, Byrne said.

IFO has worked for 20 years on its red-flesh varieties. Varieties expected to go into production were chosen for their low astringency, large size, increased sugar content, more uniform appearance and improved internal quality, storage and shelf-life.

Varieties have different levels of sweetness and tanginess, and different colored flesh and skin. Flesh colors range from 30% pink to full red. Skin colors include red, orange, yellow and bi-colored.