Final Analysis: Core Competency

Will Cosmic Crisp be the next apple of our eye?

By John Levesque June 15, 2014


Have you heard about Cosmic Crisp? Its not a breakfast cereal. Its not related to an outfielder for the Oakland As.

Its a new apple crafted by fertile minds at Washington State University. Seems they introduced a Honeycrisp to an Enterprise and, well, you get the picture. Candlelight. Merlot. Barry White on the iPod.

The resulting spawn is an apple thats sweet, tangy [and] crisp, according to publicists for WSUs College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS). Its also juicier than a Shakira video. Something to do with larger cells bursting in your mouth when you bite into them. At the risk of going all Fifty Shades of (Crimson and) Grey on you, Cosmic Crisp is remarkably firm … [and] has a rich red-purple color over a green-yellow background and is speckled with lenticels.

I think Im blushing.

Turns out that lenticels are tiny, yellowish starburst flecks on the skin of an apple. In this case, they come from Cosmic Crisps father, the noble Enterprise apple. WSU liked alluding to these starbursts (and Star Trek, too?) by introducing cosmic. The crisp, of course, comes from Honeycrisp, one of the most popular cultivars in the history of apple growing.

Cosmic Crisp wont hit the produce section of your supermarket for five years, so youll just have to take WSUs word that it just might be the best eating apple since the Garden of Eden. The marketing of Cosmic Crisp is nothing if not all out because, without marketing, an apple is just an android. In fact, heres how the university frames its unveiling of Cosmic Crisp.

In the past, a public university would simply announce a new variety as available to growers and then hope for the best. In todays highly competitive marketplace, the introduction of a new apple requires a marketing plan with experts and advocates helping it win a position alongside existing varieties on grocers shelves and ultimately in shoppers grocery carts.

Fruit Punch. With better marketing, WSU hopes Cosmic Crisp fares better than its predecessors.

To that point, WSU has created other apples but has never named them beyond the sexy identifiers WA 2 and WA 5. (Cosmic Crisp was WA 38 before getting its new name.) WA 2 and WA 5 have never been formally ramped up for commercialization the way WA 38 has been, says Jim Moyer, associate dean for research at CAHNRS, in large part because the exact niche for each variety in the marketplace has not been identified.

Last year, Kate Evans, director of WSUs apple breeding program, told Growing Produce, an online publication, that WA 2, a cross of the Splendour and Gala apples, hasnt seen much interest from Washington growers. They say its because of how it was released, Evans said. It was confusing and there wasnt a dedicated route to market.

WA 5, an offspring of Splendour and Co-op 15 (developed by Purdue University, Rutgers University and the University of Illinois), also got little promotional push and Evans acknowledged, We havent done anything more with it.

And so the commercialization begins. With Cosmic Crisps unveiling, WSU wont divulge what other names it considered after testing possibilities on focus groups and consumers. A spokeswoman says the university wants to save runners-up for possible future use.

Cant say Im nuts about the name Cosmic Crisp, but time will tell. In any case, the WSU apple folks might want to call in the WSU Creamery people for marketing advice. Cougar Gold, WSUs world famous cheddar cheese, has had a nice run. Why not a WSU apple named Cougar Bold? With the right endorsement deal, Adam and Eve might come out of retirement.

John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at [email protected].

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