Bob Meyer, right, discusses the merits of WSU’s new apples WA 2 and WA 38 with Jim Cowin at a field day to showcase the varieties.
Bob Meyer, an apple grower in Toppenish, Washington, is one of the first in the state to produce Washington State University’s first apple release, WA 2.
Meyer, who already grows Granny Smith, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious, wanted to get to market early with a new variety. “I thought maybe I could get a jump on everybody else for once, instead of everyone getting a jump on me with all the stuff they’re making money on,” he said.
So, he signed up to grow WA 2 and got enough trees to plant seven rows 12 feet apart with four feet between trees. Last fall, in its second leaf, the planting produced 27 bins of fruit, which he is selling through Borton Fruit Company, Yakima.
“I like the apple,” Meyer said.
It looks good. It tastes great. And it stores like no other. A year ago, he put some WA 2 into a cold-storage room in September with a pressure of 19 to 21 pounds. When he took them out in late April, they were still as firm.
There’s just one thing that bothered him: It didn’t have a name. Not a marketable one, at least.
When growers sign up to grow WA 2 they’re allowed to call the fruit anything they like—a policy that’s been controversial in the industry.
Of the 130 growers who signed up to evaluate WA 2, 30 applied for commercial licenses. Ten acres of the variety were planted in the state, but three have been grafted over to another variety because of the lack of an official name.
As the largest grower of the variety so far, Meyer was earnestly hoping it would be a marketing success and that he wouldn’t have to graft over his trees.
“Someone’s got to give it a name,” he told himself. “I’ve got more in the ground than anybody else, and nobody’s doing anything about it as far as pushing it or giving it a name.”
So, Meyer got on the phone to those involved in the variety’s release, including Tom Auvil and Dr. Jim McFerson at the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, which holds the commercialization rights.
“I kept bugging them and bugging them,” he recalled. “I probably called them up a hundred times.”
Finally, someone suggested he call it Crimson Delight.
McFerson said the Research Commission is encouraging the widespread use of the name Crimson Delight but is not able to tell license holders what to call the apple.
“I think it’s a good name,” Meyer said. “They should have given it a name before they brought it out to the farmers.”
Dr. Kate Evans, WSU’s apple breeder, said that Crimson Delight is the only name given to WA 2 that she’s aware of so far, although other producers could be calling the apple something different. Until there’s some agreement among producers on what to call it, she’ll continue to refer to it as WA 2.
“If there’s some agreement and everybody who signed the license is happy with using that name, then that’s absolutely fine,” she said. “It’s not a name I would have chosen, but if someone has taken the initiative and done that, it’s wonderful.”
Denny Annen, president of sales and marketing at Borton Fruit Company in Yakima, Washington, said he’s ready to test-market Meyer’s Crimson Delight this season, but faced a stumbling block. Before retailers will handle the apple, a Price-Lookup Code (PLU) is needed for the name so the fruit can be scanned at the checkout. Annen said it’s a lengthy process to obtain a code, and if the company is unsuccessful, it will sell the apples in bags marked with a Universal Product Code (UPC), which is easier to obtain.
Annen said he likes the apple and its eating quality, but it could be challenging from a marketing standpoint because its appearance is not distinctive.
“It’s a big challenge any time you come out with a new club variety,” he said, noting that other packers have their new varieties, such as Lady Alice or Opal. “You’ve got to get buy-in from the retail groups. It takes significant funds to market it, and that’s something we need to look at. We’re in the preliminary stages of this thing.”