The first major shipments of Cosmic Crisp, a new apple variety developed at Washington State University’s apple breeding program in Wenatchee, will make their way to retailers across the U.S. this month.
FirstFruits Marketing, the Yakima-based sales arm for FirstFruit Farms and Congdon Orchards, sold the first shipment of its Cosmic Crisp apples several months ago.
“It’s always fun in apple selling when the demand exceeds the supply,” said Chuck Zeutenhorst, president of FirstFruits Marketing.
The 2019 statewide Cosmic Crisp crop is expected to reach nearly a half-million 40-pound boxes. It will increase to 2.1 million boxes in 2020 and reach 21.5 million boxes by 2026, which would make it the top-producing variety.
Sunday was the official shipment launch for Cosmic Crisp. The Dec. 1 date was designed to give the apple plenty of time to establish sugars in the fruit. A small amount of Cosmic Crisp apples have been available for several months at local farm stands.
The December ship date has given Proprietary Variety Management, the Yakima-based company working with WSU to promote the new variety, more time to garner additional buzz.
The firm has worked with brand ambassadors, including Mollie and Dan Koommoo of the popular Yakima restaurant Crafted, to promote the variety’s crisp texture and sweet-tart flavor.
The apple is a cross between the disease-resistant Enterprise and the popular Honeycrisp and keeps well in storage and the refrigerator. It is called Cosmic Crisp because the bright yellowish dots on its skin look like stars.
Late last month, NBC News aired a segment about the new variety. It also has been featured in other national publications, such as Time magazine.
Now the rest of the country will have an opportunity to try the apple variety they’ve heard about for months, maybe even years. Those in the apple industry, who have invested millions and years into Cosmic Crisp, are eager to see a return.
“They’ve done a good job creating demand both with the consumer and the retailer,” Zeutenhorst said. “I think retailers are excited to have something new and different.”
The speed of Cosmic Crisp’s potential growth does prompt one key concern among those in the industry, Zeutenhorst said.
“Always when you increase tonnage that quickly, we certainly have a concern about this apple cannibalizing another apple variety in this industry,” he said.
FirstFruits Marketing sells several other new varieties, including Opal, a non-browning variety with yellow flesh.
Overall, Zeutenhorst is excited and eager to get Cosmic Crisp apples out to retailers. This year, FirstFruits Marketing has Cosmic Crisp apples for shipment only in December and January, but that should change relatively quickly.
“A few years from now we’ll have critical mass and be available potentially 12 months a year,” he said.