YAKIMA, Wash. The potential of Cosmic Crisp is already out of this world.
Just when the industry needs a new standard variety to replace the flagging fortunes of red and golden delicious varieties, the Cosmic Crisp has the potential to be a winner for breeders, nurseries, growers, retailers and consumers, said Lynnell Brandt, president of Proprietary Variety Management.
"Right now we don"t know of any challenges in the production, marketing or packaging of the selection," he said.
With red delicious and golden delicious output fading, the Cosmic Crisp could be an important variety in the state"s future.
"It is a great piece of fruit and it answers a lot of needs," said Jim McFerson, manager of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, Wenatchee. The variety handles and store wells and has great consumer appeal, he said.
Consumer tests have routinely revealed the variety to be on a par with Honeycrisp, he said.
McFerson said there are standing orders for hundreds of thousands of Cosmic Crisp trees by growers.
"There is still clearly unmet demand for more trees," he said.
Cosmic Crisp will reach production levels of hundreds of thousands of boxes soon.
Cosmic Crisp will be harvested at the end of September and the first part of October, similar to red delicious.
McFerson said the Cosmic Crisp could be considered the "new red delicious," by some, though it doesn"t share a lot of the sensory properties of reds.
"It could be an iconic Washington apple," said.
Based on the number of trees ordered for planting in the next several years, Brandt said Cosmic Crisp could yield at least 8 million cartons of fresh production within 12-15 years, with the upward potential of perhaps double that.
Proprietary Variety Management has a contract to help commercialize the Cosmic Crisp. The apple, a cross between the enterprise and the Honeycrisp, was developed by the breeding program of Washington State University. Brandt said the mission of Proprietary Variety Management is to commercialize varieties for the life of their intellectual property rights on behalf of the breeders.
A limited amount of fruit was sent to marketing firms in 2014 to taste test with consumers and retailers, said Cristy Warnock, operations manager of Proprietary Variety Management.
The first plantings of the variety will occur in 2017, followed by substantial plantings in 2018 and expected strong demand 2019.
PVM has formed an industry marketing advisory group, bringing together extension specialists, marketers and officials from the Washington State Tree Fruit Commission.
The industry marketing advisory group had its first meeting in April, where graphics for the logo design, website designs were revealed.
"It went very, very well and the momentum picked up drastically from that point forward," Warnock said.
Another meeting is scheduled for September, with invitations to all the major apple marketers in the state.
Package designs and prototypes will be available to display at PMA, she said.
"We will have a united look from Washington state shippers at PMA this year," she said.
Brandt said the Cosmic Crisp effort is trying to set a new bar on how new selections will be introduced globally.
‘We"re excited about this and has tremendous potential," he said.
While some people are concerned that multiple marketers could result in variable quality, Warnock said trademark quality standards will be developed with input from the whole industry.
"Once those are set, hopefully that what will be the even playing ground for the whole industry," she said.
Warnock said consumer focus groups were involved in naming the apple, and consumers will play a big role in the development of marketing ideas.
"We want to get consumers involved and make sure that they are getting it and loving (the apple) before we progress so that the grower, who puts in the most money and takes the most risk will be sure that people will buy this apple after five years of hoping they will and putting in all that money," she said.
Currently, and for the foreseeable future, the Cosmic Crisp is only available in Washington state, Brandt said. The commercial release of the variety in international markets will have to be done in order to make sure intellectual property rights apply for the longest time possible, since intellectual property rights are in place only for a finite amount of time after initial commercialization. The variety has both per tree royalties and production-based royalties.
"We certainly to don"t want it to become a free selection that people are competing with. That"s not fair to WSU, and it doesn"t do the industry well-being any good," he said.
There is no plan yet set to distribute the variety to other growing regions in the U.S. The market needs for the variety will considered in those decisions, Brandt said.