Arctic® apples are making their debut in stores across the United States over the next few weeks. The apples will initially be available as a sliced apple product that has been developed to avoid turning brown once sliced, bitten, or bruised. The company behind the product, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, saw an opportunity to bring to the market a sliced apple product that retains its appeal, without the use of any preservatives. They hope that people will be more likely to consume apples with the new Arctic® apple range.
The apples have been in the thought process for a long time for the head of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Neal Carter. He explained the background that led to their development. "The development of Arctic® apples has certainly been quite the adventure. I am a bio-resource engineer and in the mid-90s I came across research done by CSIRO – an Australian federal government agency for scientific research – to improve potatoes with a non-browning trait through biotechnology. As an apple grower, I was very aware that apple consumption had been declining for decades while obesity rates had simultaneously been sharply rising. My wife and I felt that we could help boost apple consumption through a similar biotech approach with apples, as non-browning apples would be more appealing and convenient."
Reduction in apple waste
Carter also said that he hopes to see a reduction in food waste when it comes to apples. "Additionally, we felt this small genetic change could significantly reduce food waste, as nearly half of all apples produced end up wasted, many due to superficial bruising," he said. "Our long journey has also included years of research and regulatory reviews before we were able to get to this point, but we’re pleased to share that Arctic® apples are now among the most studied foods on the planet, and regulators like the USDA and FDA have agreed that they’re just as safe and healthful as their conventional counterparts."
One of the appeals of apples are the numerous varieties available in the fresh market, each with their own characteristic flavor and texture. Arctic apples will also be available in several different varieties, the first of which will be Golden, followed soon by Granny Smith and Fuji. They will initially be available in 10oz packs designed to be conveniently taken with you as a snack.
"Arctic® Goldens will be the first of our delicious, non-browning apple varieties available to consumers," Carter announced. "In 2017, these apples will be exclusively available as 10-ounce grab-and-go bags with apple slices. Fresh slices highlight our apples’ unique non-browning trait, which enables them to be preservative free, while providing consumers with a convenient eating experience. We anticipate having additional non-browning varieties available in coming years, including Granny in 2018 and Fuji not long after."
Retail customers first ones to be able to purchase
While there is potential for Arctic apples to be marketed in the foodservice industry, Okanagan Specialty Fruits are initially focusing on the retail market while volumes build. "Our initial focus is on enabling consumers to purchase our non-browning apples at retail locations and we are very excited that they will now have the chance to experience the benefits of this apple variety as a convenient, healthy snack that can help reduce unnecessary food waste," said Carter. "Earlier in 2017, consumer research was conducted in six U.S. cities, where primary grocery shoppers had the chance to try the Arctic apples for themselves. We were very pleased to find that 95% were satisfied or very satisfied with the Goldens and 92% said they would buy them if available in their local stores. The foodservice sector will also be able to substantially benefit from our non-browning trait, so as our fruit volumes increase that will be an avenue we will explore."
"We’re thrilled to share that Arctic® apples will begin making their commercial debut in select U.S. supermarkets this week, with a focus on the Midwest states," he continued. "This year will see a limited supply, but as more trees get planted and more fruit is produced, availability will expand throughout North America over the coming years. We are leaving it up to individual retailers to communicate with their customers about which of their stores and locations will be carrying our the apples. All the products will be clearly labeled with our Arctic® logo so we encourage consumers to keep an eye out to see if they are being sold at their local grocery stores. We also encourage apple lovers who would like to see the apples in their local stores to ask their local produce manager to source them."
Positive outlook for the market
Okanagan Specialty Fruits are upbeat about the prospects for the new apple variety. They say that they would like to educate customers about the science behind the Arctic® apples as well as considering additional apple types to add to the range in the future.
"Currently, our focus is on developing additional non-browning apple varieties and new apple products," Carter said. "Other fruits and vegetables could certainly benefit from our unique non-browning trait in the future, but our work with other fruits is in very preliminary research stages at the moment."
"We really want people to know how passionate we are about the benefits of our non-browning apples," he added. "When families get to experience our preservative-free apple slices, they’ll enjoy not having to sacrifice taste to enjoy a healthy, ready to eat snack. Additionally, we know many consumers are interested in the science behind Arctic® apples’ non-browning trait, so we will continue being a leader in education and open transparency when it comes to both fruit production and the advantages biotechnology can offer to consumers and producers alike. Ag-biotech has the potential to not only boost product appeal and reduce waste across the entire supply chain, but it can also reduce water use, pesticide use, and overall production costs while increasing yields and improving lives.
For more information:
Okanagan Specialty Fruits