Apple farmers are hailing the new Cosmic Crisp apple as a game-changer in the apple industry.
The new variety, developed over the course of 22 years by Washington State University researchers, was made available for purchase in December.
Farmers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing the Cosmic Crisp, and have even marketed the new apple with a trailer and its own Instagram account.
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It’s the most hyped apple since … well, possibly ever.
Apple farmers are hailing a newly released variety of apple, the Cosmic Crisp, as not only perhaps the next big apple, but the fruit that could save Washington state’s apple industry.
The Cosmic Crisp apple hit the market on December 1, 22 years after lab scientists began breeding the cultivar at Washington State University, home to one of three tree fruit programs in the United States.
It was the largest launch of an apple in American history, coming after half a billion dollars in investment, $10 million in marketing, and two decades of breeding and testing by researchers at Washington State University.
“We want people to really enjoy apples. And we felt to have that happen, we had to give them better apples,” Bruce Barritt, the former director of Washington State’s tree fruit program, told Business Insider Today. “We had to … rise above Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, McIntosh. We had to have an apple that was a much better eating experience. So that was our goal.”
The Cosmic Crisp’s “parents” are the Honeycrisp and Enterprise apples — varieties Baritt said he chose for their crispness and storage qualities, respectively. Its name is a nod to the constellation-like flecks dotting its exterior.
Storage in particular is crucial for apple farmers. Almost all apples in the US are harvested between August and mid-November, according to NPR, and farmers are always trying to develop varieties that will continue to taste fresh through the next year. Kate Evans, a Washington State researcher who co-led the Cosmic Crisp’s development, said the new apple will stay fresh for 10 to 12 months.
However, an equally important goal for the research team was to develop a fruit that was just as beautiful as the famed Red Delicious variety, but also had a sweet taste and a nice crunch. Once the star of Washington state’s apple industry, the Red Delicious began to fall out of favor in the late 1990s for its bland taste and mealy texture. The demise of the fruit cost growers $760 million in three years.
“We had, you know, all our eggs are in one basket: Red Delicious,” Baritt told Business Insider Today. “That’s not good economics, it’s just not good. And if we grow more and more of something that people like less and less, that’s not a good business model either.”
Since then, growers have increased production of other varieties, but the Red Delicious still counts for almost one-third of apple tree acreage in Washington today.
So far, Washington farmers have grown 12,000 acres of Cosmic Crisp trees.
And growers in the state are investing heavily in promoting the new fruit, releasing a trailer hyping its arrival last year and even starting a Cosmic Crisp Instagram account. $10.5 million have gone into marketing the apple to date.
Washington produced 400,000 cases of the new apple last year ahead of its release, according to The Wall Street Journal — “a fraction of the 240 million-case US apple crop,” but an amount farmers expect to rise as awareness grows. As a “premium” apple variety, the Cosmic Crisp sells for around $3 to $5 a pound, more than twice the price of standard varieties, like the Honeycrisp or Gala.
But Evans, the Washington State researcher, is confident the apple will be a hit, and hopes it will revive America’s interest in apples.
“We need people to eat more fresh fruit,” she told Business Insider Today.”If we can make eating that piece of fresh fruit a great experience, well that’s kind of fundamental to what is driving a lot of plant breeding.”
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