Non-browning apple offers opportunity for food industry

Recently, a new apple, which will not brown when sliced, was tested with consumers. "There are many growers in the apple industry who are eager to plant Arctic® apples and we know from our consumer research that there are many shoppers who can't wait for them as well,” states Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruit and the creator of the non-browning Arctic® apple. Non-browning apples allow consumers convenience both in not having to use anti-browning treatments and in waste reduction. “Consumers participating in a taste test have informed us that the apple slices have a better texture, crispiness, and visual appeal. When offered the chance, every single one of the consumers wanted to try our apples.”

The introduction of non-browning Arctic® apples to consumers is at least few years away, but if approved for commercial production by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Apple Association will then support the public’s right to decide whether or not to purchase a genetically modified apple. “If approved, the non-browning apple will be just one more possible option available to consumers,” explains Wendy Brannen, director of consumer health and public relations for the U.S. Apple Association. “We want to convey the vast choices of safe, healthy apples and apple products available to consumers, including dozens of non-GMO apples that will remain on the market.”



The U.S. Apple Association’s stance that consumers decide about Arctic is reliant on the non-browning apple’s safety. While browning is a naturally occurring process resulting from an apple’s exposure to oxygen, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concluded in their review of Arctic® apples that they are nutritionally equivalent to their parents. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared in their review that Arctic® apples are just like any other apple except for their non-browning trait,” explains Brannen, “We have assurance from the developer that these apples would be clearly sold and marketed under the Arctic® label, so their place in the market will simply be a matter of consumer choice.”

The non-browning apple is the first genetically modified apple which may become available to consumers. In order to achieve a non-browning apple, genes are targeted which cause the effect. “Low-browning apples have been bred by traditional means but biotechnology is the only way to produce a truly non-browning apple,” explains Carter. “Through my work as a bioresource engineer in over 50 countries, I became persuaded of the value that agricultural biotechnology can offer. We are able to specifically introduce the non-browning trait, while preserving the integrity of varieties growers and consumers already enjoy.”

The U.S. Apple Association says it is important the industry remain transparent to help provide the public with unbiased information about all apple choices. “We want to help consumers understand and educate themselves on their product choices. Some people may appreciate an apple that doesn’t brown, whereas others may be uncomfortable with a genetically modified product,” explains Brannen, “those purchasing decisions are up to them, but we are happy to help direct them toward factual educational resources out there to help them best decide what’s right for them.”
While consumers are ready to enjoy these apples, several organizations will not publically support Arctic apples despite the benefits this fruit brings. Initially a minor inconvenience, browning apples have a number of negative impacts on the apple and food service industries. “Apples are among the most wasted foods on the entire planet,” states Carter, “a significant portion of this waste is due to superficial bruising or browning.”



Approximately 40% of apples grown are never eaten as even slight imperfections can cause the fruit to be overlooked by consumers. However, biotechnology is just one branch in this non-browning initiative. “Being an orchardist myself,” states Carter, “I know how competitive of a business this is, and anything that helps growers to produce higher yields, reduce inputs, or have a better quality product is something worth exploring.”

The food service industry relies on anti-browning treatments such as lemon juice or commercially available solutions which are expensive in cost and labor. These treatments often result in a different taste or diminished fruit quality while the sulfite used in dried apples can cause allergies. Non-browning apples are able to avoid all of these concerns. “Non-browning apples can reduce food waste and help boost apple consumption – two very worthwhile goals.”

Though it will be a few years before Okanagan Specialty Fruits sees its preliminary non-browning apples, the Arctic® Golden, and the Arctic® Granny available for consumer purchase, they already have plans to commercialize non-browning Fuji and Gala apples. “We plan to develop a number of additional Arctic apple varieties over the years,” states Carter, “and have other exciting traits in the works for apples, particularly fire blight and apple scab resistance.”

Currently Arctic apples are only grown in a few trial orchards in Washington and New York. However, following approval Okanagan Specialty Fruits plans to work with many interested growers in order to plant as many trees as possible. While the production of non-browning apples will be slow at first due to the time it takes for the trees to mature, Okanagan Specialty Fruits hopes they will have a long lasting effect on the apple industry. “The freshcut market is growing fast, and consumers are demanding healthy, “snackable”, options more than ever. We foresee Arctic apples creating a consumption trigger similar to what baby carrots did for the carrot industry.”

The Arctic apple is not yet available to the public as it has not passed deregulation, however with current information it appears the apple will be approved. All other apple purchases will continue to be non-GMO, and consumers will have a clear choice whether to purchase Arctic apples. “The consumer has the opportunity to purchase applesauce with or without cinnamon. They can buy a sweet or a tart apple based on their preference,” reflects Brannen, “The non-browning apple simply offers another choice for them. Some people will understand that browning is natural process, but others may not like the browning and want to try them.”

Contact: Joel Brooks
Website: www.Arcticapples.com
Email: info@okspecialtyfruits.com





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