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What should Washington call its next new apple?

What's in a name? For Washington state's newest apple, the answer is, "about 25 years and a lot of branding." In 2024, Washingtonians will have an opportunity to get in on the next step for WA-64.

That's the name Washington State University has been calling an apple it started developing in 1998,and will soon be ready for the market. But that name won't stick. WSU wants 2024 to be the year it discovers the name that WA-64 will hit the shelves with.

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"We hope that folks are excited about the apple, even though they can't taste it or buy it for several years," said Jeremy Tamsen, WSU's director of innovation and commercialization, while talking with KUOW in August. "We're interested in getting input ... so we can find a name that really hits a home run with this apple."

Expectations may be heightened due to the massive success of WSU's last apple release, the Cosmic Crisp (originally called WA-38), which also went through years of development and branding.

A naming contest for WA-64 is anticipated for spring 2024. WSU will likely then put a handful of names and branding packages through focus groups to get the winning title.

Can an apple, by any other name, be as sweet?

The new name produced in 2024 will be the next step, out of many, to get this apple into stores. In fact, it takes many, many steps for WSU to produce a commercially viable apple.

The first step for WA-64 was taken in 1998, when WSU crossed a Honeycrisp with a Cripps Pink (more well-known in the United States by its trade name "Pink Lady"). That was followed by years of testing and cultivation.

A patent was filed in 2022. Commercial trees won't be available until 2026, and the first apples to hit store shelves won't be harvested until 2029.

All these years of development have added up to a crunchier, crispier bite than its predecessors, according to Tamsen.

"It's a great eating apple," Tamsen said. "It really does blend the attributes of its two parents, Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink."

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The apple has a light yellow background that matures into a red and pink blush. Tamsen notes market research found that consumers favor red or bicolor apples. So, WSU has targeted that spectrum.

Like the Cosmic Crisp, WA-64 is expected to have a longer shelf life. It is harvested around the same time of year as the Golden Delicious, around August.

While initial information about WA-64 sounds pretty sweet, the apple likely won't be as widely available as the Cosmic Crisp was when it debuted.

"We had a blockbuster hit with Cosmic Crisp," Tamsen said. "That was the fastest and largest commercial release and scaling-up of any commercial produce product in the history of humankind."

The Cosmic Crisp is a Washington exclusive — it cannot be grown anywhere else. There are about 22 million Cosmic trees producing in the state today. When WSU was hyping the apple a few years ago, Tamsen says there was more capital in the industry, and growers had more ability to bring the trees into their orchards. Conditions are not as favorable for WA-64. WSU expects this apple to initially be less available than the smash hit Cosmic Crisp.

Once WA-64 gets its name, and hits shelves, it will be the fourth apple that WSU has released commercially. Cosmic Crisp was the third in 2019. WA-2, aka Sunrise Magic, was released in 2010. WA-5 was released in 2009.

KUOW's Natalie Akane Newcomb and Dyer Oxley contributed to this post.

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