( Photo by Amelia Freidline )

It’s not very often that you come across a “game-changing” product that actually delivers everything it promises. With all the hype built up around the $10 million marketing budget for the new Cosmic Crisp apple, then, I admit I was a little skeptical the variety was as out-of-this-world amazing as it was purported to be.

The Cosmic Crisp, for a refresher, has been in the works at Washington State University for more than two decades, and is exclusively licensed to Washington growers for the next 10 years. 

“It will change the game on proprietary varieties,” Washington Apple Commission president Todd Fryhover told The Packer’s Amy Sowder earlier this year.

The volume this season is only about 450,000 40-pound boxes, according to media reports, but so many growers have planted Cosmic Crisp trees that the number could reach 15 million boxes in five years, Fryhover told Sowder.

Cosmic Crisp officially launched into the consumer stratosphere on Dec. 1, and for a little more than a week I eagerly scanned the variety’s website for area retailers stocking it and combed through the apple displays to see if it had arrived.

And then, when I popped into the grocery store for some cold medicine, I saw them. The store had a decent-sized display of the apples at the very front of the produce department that featured the branded galactic shipping boxes. A sign advertised they were “on sale” for $2.99 a pound, which I thought wasn’t bad compared with my usual apple variety of choice. 

Later that evening I excitedly told my parents I’d finally found the apples. “Oh,” said my dad, “is that the one they say lasts for a year?” What?

I asked Kathryn Grandy, PVM’s director of marketing, about this, and she told me that some folks in the consumer press had misunderstood “controlled atmosphere storage” to mean regular refrigerators.

“It holds up quite well at retail but we are not saying ‘for a year’ in a home refrigerator,” Grandy said in an e-mail.

I had intended to wait until I could bring the apples into Packer HQ to share with my colleagues, but curiosity got the better of me, so I reached into my shopping bag, pulled out one of the hefty apples, and took a bite.

Cosmic Crisp is touted as a large, juicy apple with crisp flesh and a perfect balance of sugar and acid. It certainly is juicy — I had to hold it with a napkin to keep the juice from running down my arm — and the acid-sugar balance reminded me favorably of my preferred apple variety, though the flesh didn’t have quite as much of a “crack” to it when taking a bite.

So, does Cosmic Crisp have what it takes to change the apple game? Now it’s for consumers to taste and see if they like it well enough to spring for the higher price (it’s selling for $5 a pound in some cities, according to consumer media).

It’s not mind-blowing enough to make me switch my apple loyalties — yet — but it just might give me a reason to keep eating apples once that variety is out of season.

Amelia Freidline is The Packer’s designer and copy chief. E-mail her at [email protected].

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