Cosmic Crisp to get $10 million marketing push

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Specifics haven’t been revealed, but Washington State University and the firm it hired to help manage commercialization of its new’s Cosmic Crisp apple say they will spend $10 million on early promotions.

CAPITAL PRESS – DAN WHEAT – YAKIMA, Wash. — The framework for a $10 million marketing launch of the new Washington apple Cosmic Crisp has been reached between Washington State University and Proprietary Variety Management of Yakima.

PVM, which was hired by WSU in 2013 to help manage commercialization of the apple, has selected McDill Associates, of Santa Clara, Calif., as the lead agency for the marketing campaign. Others will be chosen later.

“With decades of experience launching and building produce brands and category winners, McDill’s work is well suited for a breakout product like Cosmic Crisp,” said Kathryn Grandy, PVM marketing director.

“With a deep history in produce, I can honestly say we know a game changer when we see it. Cosmic Crisp is everything that a consumer is looking for and creates a differentiator for retailers,” said Melissa McDill, president and creative director of the firm.

WSU and PVM will provide $10 million for promotions over several years with specific marketing strategies but for the benefit of all sales companies, Grandy said. She would not say how much of the $10 million will be provided by WSU or PVM.

Individual sales companies likely will spend a similar amount on their own Cosmic Crisp promotions over the same time period, she said.

Cosmic Crisp is a WSU cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp, the parents chosen for outstanding flavor, color, storage and resistance to disease and disorders. It rated “statistically significantly” better in consumer tests in taste and texture. It has a sweet, tangy flavor that the industry believes consumers will like better than Honeycrisp and it’s easier to grow than Honeycrisp.

The name was selected in 2014 for the apple’s lenticels, tiny skin pores that look like starbursts and crisp referencing its firmness and the popular Honeycrisp.

The first commercial orchards of Cosmic Crisp were planted in 2017 and the first apples will arrive in grocery stores in the fall of 2019. Volume will quickly accelerate from just under 200,000, 40-pound boxes in 2019 to 2.2 million for 2020, 6.2 million in 2021 and to 22 million by 2026, PVM has said.

Growers have been concerned about such a fast acceleration of volume, but Grandy said it can be a positive.

“There’s a tremendous amount of branded apples (proprietary varieties of small volume) and competition for shelf space. Something like 37 branded apples. All won’t make it. Having a large volume where we will fill retail needs is very positive,” Grandy said.

The framework of a marketing plan has been shared with an industry marketing advisory committee which likes it and will be shared with sales companies and growers in March, she said.

It will be a national effort including packaging, in-store promotions and a digital campaign, she said.

How much Cosmic Crisp is sold when and where will be up to the sales companies but all major retailers have had samples and are eager for it, Grandy said.

Posted by: Dan Wheat, Capital Press, October 15, 2018 5:18PM

Picture: Dan Wheat/Capital Press

Washington’s new Cosmic Crisp apple will reach grocery stores a year from now and quickly ramp up in volume. WSU and a company it hired will spend $10 million in early promotions. Sales companies likely will spend a similar amount to promote the apple.