WENATCHEE — The trucks were lined up at Stemilt Growers’ warehouse by midnight and at 12:01 a.m. Sunday they were off to deliver Cosmic Crisp — 20 years in the making — around the country.
The brand-new variety, a cross between Enterprise and Honey Crisp, made its debut to consumers Sunday and was stocked in a handful of stores around Wenatchee on Monday.
It was created by the Washington State University’s tree fruit breeding program in Wenatchee in 1997 and first planted in the program’s Orondo test orchard in 2001. Since then, the variety has undergone rigorous testing to prepare for its commercial release.
On Monday afternoon, Stemilt’s retail store on Highway 97 in Olds Station had a steady stream of customers eager to try it out.
Jim Crawford of Wenatchee stopped to pick up a bag for his mother, who’s been eyeing the apple for months, he said.
“It’s always exciting to see an apple go from experimental to commercial,” he said.
Demand for the fruit has been strong from both consumers and wholesalers purchasing in bulk, said Stemilt spokeswoman Brianna Shales.
“There’s been a lot of buildup for years for this one,” she said.
Stemilt will be packing and shipping Cosmic for about two months, Shales said. The retail store will also carry it through January. Cosmic was selling for $1.99 per pound on Monday, just a few cents more than the rest of the apple varieties carried by the retail store.
The Wenatchee Safeway was selling Cosmic for $3.29 a pound Monday and Prey’s Fruit Barn & Orchards in Peshastin had Cosmic in stock for $1.79 per pound.
The stand expected its first bin to go quickly, so it pre-ordered another to arrive next week, said employee Chrissy Carey.
“It’s exciting to see where the industry is going with apples,” she said. “I’ve been in the fruit industry for 25 years and it’s hard to impress me. But I was pleasantly surprised with (Cosmic Crisp.)”
Prey’s first Cosmic apples of the day went to Lin Renberg of Leavenworth. She had stopped in to pick some up before they’d even been delivered. She then came back later in the day to claim her 10-pound bag.
“I heard about them from a friend so I came in this morning to find them,” she said. “They told me they hadn’t been delivered yet so I said, ‘I’ll be back.’ ”
In total, Cosmic’s first crop is expected to yield between 400,000 and 450,000 boxes, Kathryn Grandy of Proprietary Variety Management said Monday. That’ll increase to over 2 million next year.
The company is coordinating a $10 million marketing campaign featuring social media influencers, astronauts and chefs to promote the apple.
The unprecedented apple has had a regimented rollout, with every detail planned carefully. Even the release date, Dec. 1, was decided by an industry panel to maximize Cosmic’s taste for consumers, she said.
“The apple is best if it sits around for a little bit,” Grandy said. “It allows the starch to go down and sugar to go up.”