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  • This ad isn't what you think.

  • It's not promoting a sports team or a grill company.

  • It's for an apple.

  • And unlike those that have dominated the produce section when you were a kid, new breeds like this one have catchy names, logos, and slogans.

  • And are trying to generate buzz before you can buy them.

  • Historically, our produce has gone unbranded.

  • So how did we end up with all these apples?

  • For most of the past century, America's iconic apple was that of Snow White.

  • Lipstick red, with shiny skin and a crisp white interior, a.k.a. "the Red Delicious."

  • First grown on an orchard in Iowa and originally named after its founder, when it came out in the late 1800s, it was dubbed "the best apple of any time."

  • Growers and retail stores loved the Red delicious because it looked good.

  • It was uniform in size and color, turned red before it was ripe, and wouldn't bruise easily.

  • And Americans loved the taste.

  • By the 1980s, close to half of all apples grown in the US were Red Delicious.

  • The trouble is, when you bite into one now, it often doesn't taste great.

  • People complain of mushy flesh and tough skin. Its defining characteristic can sometimes be that it has no flavor at all.

  • It takes years and a lot of money to develop a good tasting apple, but growers were incentivized to cut costs at the expense of taste.

  • That is, until one apple proved them all wrong.

  • The Honeycrisp.

  • The honeycrisp is everything that the Red Delicious was not.

  • When it came out in 1991, after 30 years of development, it had a refreshing taste, a delicate skin, and a soft, juicy crunch.

  • And even though it can cost more than two times the average price of apples, consumers then and now are willing to pay a premium price, so much so that it's now the fifth most produced apple in the US.

  • So the honeycrisp started a sort of revolution in the apple industry: Now that people knew expensive, flavor-focused apples would sell, breeders experimented to create tastier, more inventive varieties.

  • And they sought to protect their apples' good names, by patenting their trees and trademarking their brand names.

  • This process picked up speed after a 1980 federal law allowed universities to own and patent their inventions, including apple trees.

  • And research programs for apple breeding took advantage of the new rules.

  • In order to plant these new patented varieties, growers had to pay up: usually about $1 per patented tree and a portion of sales for use of a trademarked name.

  • Plus, each trademarked apple had to pass muster on firmness, sugar content, blemishes and color.

  • These quality checks mean that even though the trademarked Pink Lady and the generic Cripps Pink originate from the same type of tree, they look and taste different.

  • The Pink Lady is held to rigorous trademark standards and that is what, the company says, justifies their higher price.

  • Now, not all new apples get trademarked.

  • It is only those that experts believe can garner a premium price.

  • And it can take up to 10 years after securing a patent and trademark to grow enough trees for commercial production.

  • So while they were waiting on the fruits of their labor, growers worked on marketing their apple in the hopes finding loyal consumers in a competitive market.

  • And they're not alone.

  • Visit your grocery store and you will see a lot more name brands in the produce section.

  • Branded fruits and vegetables are a growing trend.

  • While not all branded apples will see success on par with the honeycrisp, there is one that has high hopes.

  • Washington State growers are ramping up production of their Cosmic Crisp, an apple that's both sweet and tart, firm and crisp, and much easier to grow than the honeycrisp.

  • They're trying to get people excited about tasting something new and that's not a bad thing.

  • While we could see higher prices in the future, the fruits and veggies themselves will be objectively better.

  • And consumers will have more options, just like we do with our phones, or our computers, or our cereal.

  • And now, our apples.

This ad isn't what you think.

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B1 US Vox apple taste crisp delicious price

The quest for the perfect apple

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    Julia Kuo posted on 2019/04/10
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