Brunell: Cosmic Crisp is needed lift for Washington

By Don C. Brunell

For The Vidette

Imagine tuning into the Sunday morning talk shows and wondering if the politicians and commentators could possibly find something positive to say about one another or the state of affairs in America. Unfortunately, there is a better chance of a snowball lasting in a sauna. But suddenly on Oct. 20 there was a surprise: “BREAKING NEWS” moving across the bottom of the screen about an apple developed in Washington state.

Television pundits ignored it; however, the internet was stocked with stories emanating from London to Los Angeles announcing the Cosmic Crisp. Robert Crassweller, a horticulture professor at Penn State University, told Time Magazine it is a “game changer” and it isn’t the latest pricey I-phone or I-pad made by Apple.

Cosmic Crisp was developed in Washington specifically for our state’s climate and growing conditions. It is a cross between a Honey Crisp and Enterprise — both developed in the Midwest. Washington State University researchers took the disease resistant Enterprise and combined it with the Honey Crisp, known for its crispness, juicy sweetness and hint of tartness, to create the Cosmic Crisp.

While it is expected to challenge the Fuji and Gala — developed in Japan or New Zealand — as well as the traditional Red and Golden Delicious for market share, growers are betting it increases apple consumption worldwide.

“There are 12 million trees planted in the state of Washington, so this year we’ll have 450,000 boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples available,” Kathryn Grandy, the brand’s lead marketing director, said in London’s Telegraph. “Normally, when a new apple is introduced to the market, there might be 2,000 boxes, and it might take 10 years to hit a million boxes.”

“This is the first time anyone has made such a concerted effort to develop a variety, release it and commit to such a large quantity,” Crassweller added. There is a $10.5 million advertising campaign to boost the launch.

The best news is Washington apple growers will have exclusive rights to the Cosmic Crisp for 10 years. That’s only fitting since our state’s orchardists paid researchers at Washington State University to develop it over the past 20 years. Apple growers need a license to buy the trees and pay a royalty on sales of the fruit.

This large, juicy apple has a remarkably firm and crisp texture. Some say it snaps when you bite into it! It is surprisingly sweet, holds its freshness well over a year, and doesn’t brown as quickly when cut.

Kate Evans, the British director of the Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, claims it is a real good apple. Her predecessor, Bruce Barritt, started the breeding program in 1994 realizing that our state’s apple crop was dominated (70 percent) by Red Delicious.

“I just felt like they put all their eggs in one basket,” Barritt told Time Magazine. “That cash cow wasn’t going to last forever.”

He was right Red Delicious production fell 11 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the U.S. Apple Association.

Apples are a $2.5-billion-a-year business in Washington, which grows about 60 percent of the nation’s supply, or nearly 140 million boxes. The state has about 1,500 apple growers and 175,000 acres of orchards. About 50,000 people pick some 12 billion apples by hand each fall. The fruit is exported to 60 countries, the LA Times recently reported.

Washington is America’s fourth-biggest exporter by state behind Texas, California and New York. In 2018, our state’s farmers and manufacturers sent $77.7 billion worth of goods around the globe. Apples accounted for $760 million — and hopefully poised to zoom forward if new trade agreements pending Congress are finally ratified.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at