The variety, earlier designated WA 38 by WSU breeders, was developed by crossing enterprise and Honeycrisp varieties in 1997, according to a news release from Pullman, Wash.-based school.
Ripening in late September, the variety features sweet and tangy fruit, characteristically large and round/conical with 90% to 100% of the surface covered with a rich red-purple color over a green-yellow background, according to the release.
Wide availability to consumers isn’t expected until 2019, but WSU is working with several Northwest Nursery Improvement Institute-affiliated nurseries and other producers to increase planting stock, according to the release.
The “Cosmic Crisp” name was selected after a series of consumer focus groups in Seattle, Yakima and Pullman directed by Carolyn Ross, associate professor in the WSU School of Food Science, according to the release.
The rosy cheeks of the apple, Ross said, helped inspired the name.
“One of the striking things about the apple is that it’s got .. little spots that look like starbursts,” Ross said in the release, “so people were interested in pursuing names related to outer space and the cosmos.”
Consumers also liked the descriptive “crisp” in the name because of the apple’s big crunch and the link to the apple’s parent, the Honeycrisp.
Besides the focus groups, Proprietary Variety Management, a Yakima-based company specializing in the management of proprietary varieties, polled shoppers in various retail locations.
Proprietary Variety Management will assist WSU with branding, licensing and collecting royalties for the new apple variety. The company also will work with WSU and the Washington apple industry to develop a logo and graphics.
The goal of WSU is to determine who will market the variety, and that it will be made through negotiations between growers and packer/shippers, said James Moyer, director of the agricultural research center and associate dean for research for WSU.
“We, through our agent PVM, will monitor these agreements to ensure they are consistent with licenses,” he said in an e-mail.
The intent is that the variety will not be exclusive, he said. Moyer said that WSU won’t be involved in choosing marketers. Only Washington growers can plant the variety now, Moyer said that could change.
The university is having a drawing to assign the limited number of trees available to Washington growers for planting in 2017. The drawing, which has received more than 260 applications, closes May 31, according to the release.
Information on the variety is available online.
Desmond O’Rourke, president of Belrose Inc., Pullman, Wash., said one obvious unanswered question about the Cosmic Crisp is who will market it. Another is whether all growers who are successful in the drawing will be able to provide the needed quality for a successful new variety.
“With most of the club varieties, the club sponsor actually selects the growers and the packers that they would have working with them,” he said. “In this case, there is no merit standard, simply if you are a Washington grower you can put your name into the lottery,” he said. Club varieties often have an exclusive packer and marketer to tightly control quality, he said. O’Rourke said the new variety will face challenges in the years ahead.
“It is very easy to have a lot of hype initially, but actually putting a consistent quality apple like a gala on the market is very difficult.”