Insight & Analysis

The big apple… in Washington?

Published: Dec 2019

No, not the Big Apple AKA New York. An actual apple. A new variety of the fruit has hit the shelves this week in the US, promising to last in storage for up to an entire year, suffer from less bruising and browning and still be delicious.

Ripe red apples on a picnic table with one cut in half

The Cosmic Crisp apple – so called because of the yellow flecks on the skin looking like stars in the night sky against its deep red peel – has been in development for two decades. Horticulturalist Bruce Barritt worked with Washington State University’s tree fruit breeding programme and Dr Kate Evans, a British horticulturalist who had been leading breeding programmes in Kent, UK, to produce an apple that would be firm, crisp and juicy.

Utilising cross-pollination methods instead of genetic modification, the Cosmic Crisp is a mix of Enterprise and Honeycrisp apples, and is bred to feature “naturally higher levels of acidity and sugar”. According to their webpage, this mix means that the apples are “not only sweeter than other varieties, but also naturally slow to brown”, as well as requiring less sugar when used in baking recipes.

Washington State is the biggest provider of apples in the US, and farmers there are exclusively allowed to grow the apple until 2024, with the possibility to extend that to 2034, and more than 12 million trees have already been planted. Kathryn Grandy, director of marketing and operations at Proprietary Variety Management, the marketing agency handling the launch, told HuffPost that there are set to be 450,000 boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples for this season. For comparison, Grandy said, normally when a new apple is introduced to the market, there might be 2,000 boxes at first.

Behind the launch is an enormous US$10.5m marketing campaign and the trademarked tagline is “The apple of big dreams”. A campaign video calls the Cosmic Crisp “the apple the world has been waiting for” and shows one of the fruit spinning like a globe with light bouncing off it.

With the backing of the entire Washington State and even an astronaut, (Leroy Chiao, a former International Space Station commander is one of the brand ambassadors) it’s clear that developers think the Cosmic Crisp is an a-peel-ing new product.

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