The New Zealand growers who developed the Premier Star apple variety and officials at Earth Source Trading Inc. who are importing the fruit for its debut season in the U.S. say it is especially geared for American markets.

Ken Mobley, general manager for Earth Source Trading Inc., informally introduced the Premier Star, a relative of the traditional gala, to the U.S. in late May during a visit to Yakima, Wash.

The Ephrata, Pa.-based fruit importer is the exclusive supplier of the Premier Star in the U.S. and has limited supplies of the new variety, which is available only in bulk for the first year of the program.

“The apple has had great success in Asian markets in the past few years,” Earth Source sales representative Devon Loose said, and the company continues to import braeburns, galas, and cripps pinks from New Zealand.

Loose said U.S. distribution this season is limited to the Pacific Northwest, the Indianapolis area and parts of the Northeast.

Growers Greg andEarth Source Trading imports new apple variety from New Zealand Stephanie Buck, owners of Premier Orchards on New Zealand’s Waimea Plains, test marketed the Premier Star for the first time in 2011 with 3,000 cartons they shipped to Singapore and Thailand.

Positive response in Asia encouraged the couple to continue the conversion, Loose said.

The Bucks describe the Premier Star as an early-season variety that stores, handles and travels well, making it a good choice for export to markets such as the U.S.

The red-skinned apple is known for its deep color, thick firm flesh and sweet flavor, Loose said.

On their website, the Bucks cite a brix level of 12% to 13% at harvest and dry matter of 16% at harvest. By comparison, the royal gala variety has dry matter of 12% to 13% at harvest, according to the Premier Orchards website.

Although the Bucks discovered the first Premier Star on one of their royal gala trees in 1999, it took them several years to formally identify the variety, which they officially named in 2005.

The couple began converting to the new variety in 2007. As of 2009, their home block of Premier Stars had grown to 18,000 trees.

The Premier Star is considered an imperial royal gala sport. Exclusive international propagation rights have been granted to New Zealand’s Waimea Nurseries Ltd.