PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University has re-introduced an apple variety from its breeding program in Wenatchee that it first released six years ago.
Initially only known by its breeding name, WA 2, the apple didn’t catch on with growers or marketers because it had no name. The idea was to let each company grow and sell it under whatever name they chose. That didn’t go over well.
Some 24 licenses were granted but licensees wanted one common name to prevent marketplace confusion, nursery owners have said. WSU picked the name Crimson Delight but interest didn’t grow.
“We learned from our mistakes and are modeling our approach after WA 38,” said Albert Tsui, WSU business development specialist.
WA 38 is the breeding name of Cosmic Crisp, a new variety sparking high industry interest. Proprietary Variety Management, a variety management company in Yakima owned by nurseryman Lynnell Brandt, is assisting WSU in the commercial development of both varieties. WSU managed the initial release of WA 2 alone.
Consumer focus groups in Spokane and Seattle were used to select Sunrise Magic as the new brand name for WA 2. New growers obtaining WSU licenses to grow the variety will be required to use Sunrise Magic but prior licensees will be allowed to use whatever name they’d chosen or switch to the new name, Tsui said.
“I would be surprised if any of them switch because the old licenses are more favorable to them. They pay royalties on the tree but not the fruit,” he said.
Ray Keller, general manager of Apple King in Yakima, said WSU never trademarked the name Crimson Delight so his company did and will continue to pack the apple under that name. It markets through L&M Northwest Inc., Raleigh, N.C.
Apple King is the largest packer of Crimson Delight at 10,000 40-pound boxes and one of its orchard companies is the largest grower, Keller said.
“Our intent is to plant a lot more and we welcome others,” he said.
The apple was developed by the apple breeding program at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee by Bruce Barritt, who is now retired. The apple is a cross between Gala and Splendour. It has a pinkish-red blush with conspicuous lenticels, tiny pores in the skin. It is sweet with moderate acidity, stores well and is harvested about a week after Cosmic Crisp during the Red Delicious season.
Tom Riggan, general manager of Chelan Fresh Marketing, said WA 2 lacks the “wow factor” of Cosmic Crisp in taste.
“A lot of growers are getting behind Cosmic Crisp because it’s a tremendous eating apple and stores well,” Riggan said. “I have eaten both over the years and Cosmic Crisp really impresses me where the WA 2 didn’t impress me. It didn’t have the wow factor. There are a lot of new varieties and unless you have the wow factor it can be just another apple. It has to have some serious attributes for people to want to make it their apple.”
Keller believes WA 2 does have the “wow factor.”
“We think it has it more than Cosmic Crisp,” he said. “Part of the problem when it was introduced was that WSU didn’t get the word out that it develops its best flavor in storage after Christmas.
“It really does have great flavor and stores well. We think Crimson Delight is the right name,” Keller said. “Crimson. Cougars. Being a Cougar I have strong feelings on that.”