Jennifer Armen, business development and marketing for Okanagan Specialty Fruits, holds a 10-ounce bag of sliced Arctic golden delicious apples. The Arctic golden delicious will be offered to about 400 Midwest retail stores this fall.
NEW ORLEANS — Boldly going where no genetically modified apple has gone before, Arctic apples from Okanagan Specialty Fruits will ship to about 400 Midwest retail stores in late October.
The Arctic golden delicious apples are designed to be non-browning.
“It’s a super exciting time for us,” said Jennifer Armen, business development and marketing for Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Summerland, British Columbia.
Okanagan founder and president Neal Carter said the price point for the Arctic sliced apples will be competitive with other suppliers.
“We are not trying to differentiate ourselves by price,” he said. “We are trying to differentiate ourself by quality, great taste and preservative free,” he said.
Volume will exclusively marketed in the U.S. this year, he said. There is not yet enough volume to support whole apple sales of Arctic goldens, he said.
While the company is looking at future needs for its own infrastructure of storing, sizing and slicing its apples, Armen said the company has currently contracted with a processor with a dedicated line to produce the sliced apples.
Okanagan has its own sales staff in place to market the sliced apples, she said.
Armen did not say what retailers will receive the fruit but said they are mostly smaller chains in the Midwest with between 10 and 150 stores.
The company, in business for 21 years, won U.S. regulatory approval for its genetically modified Arctic golden delicious and granny smith varieties in 2015 after more than five years of work. Fuji Arctic apples were approved by the USDA in 2016.
The fruit — all Arctic golden delicious apples this year — will be offered to consumers in a 10-ounce grab-and-go bag, Armen said. The Arctic granny smith will be offered next year, she said.
Arctic golden delicious won’t be explicitly labeled as “GMO” or produced with biotechnology, but Armen said the bag does have a short version of the variety’s development and offers a SmartLabel quick-response code, a company url and a toll-free phone number where consumers can learn more how the apple was produced.
Armen said the SmartLabel is a Grocery Manufacturers Association initiative as one way to provide consumers with information about product developed with biotechnology. “A lot of consumer packaged goods companies have gone to relying on SmartLabel and we felt like it would be a great idea to be consistent with others who have products produced with biotechnology,” she said.
Consumers like the Arctic golden delicious, Armen said.
“We have had a great reception, and certainly when people get a chance to try the apple and they realize that there is no off flavor,” Armen said. “It tastes like a fresh-cut apple is supposed to taste and they get excited.”
Armen said the apples will be sanitized and washed but won’t have preservatives or antioxidants applied like other fresh-cut apples.
Armen said once consumers try the Arctic golden delicious, they will like it.
“Yes, there will be resistance, there will always be people that don’t want the product, and you know what, that’s OK because it is all about choice,” she said.
Armen said there are not enough Arctic apples to supply national retailers this year.
“I can you tell you we have a lot of interest throughout North America from national retailers,” she said. “They are certainly cautious and want to see how this rollout goes, but I think it is going to be 2019 before we could actually begin to service those folks anyway,” she said.
Armen said foodservice operators also are interested in the Arctic apple.
“Foodservice doesn’t use a lot of apples today because it is harder to manage the browning, so again, that’s another outlet when the volume ramps up,” she said.