Okanagan Specialty Fruits
Okanagan Specialty Fruits
SUMMERLAND, B.C. — A small volume of genetically modified, non-browning sliced apples apparently were well received by consumers in the U.S. Midwest and Southeast in November and the company making them will launch a new product in mid-February.
Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. in Summerland, won’t say what the new product is but says 92 to 94 percent of consumers who ate the company’s GM, sliced Golden Delicious in promotional testing in six U.S. Midwest stores last February and March accepted them and said they would likely buy.
“We don’t feel we lack consumer acceptance,” Carter said.
Asked if he believes it is a very vocal minority opposed to GM products, he said, “Yes, very much so.”
OSF launched commercial sales Nov. 1 of only 40,000 to 50,000 pounds of Arctic Golden slices in about 70 stores under three retail banners across the Midwest and into the Southeast. They sold in 10-ounce, pouch bags at a range of premium prices.
The sales and the earlier testing provided valuable consumer feedback on price points and packaging, Carter said.
Another 120,000 to 130,000 pounds of the 2017 crop was held back for the new product coming soon. Testing of bagged, whole apples may come next fall, he said.
OSF’s products all sell under its Arctic brand.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada announced Jan. 30 that the Arctic Fuji can be sold as food in Canada, poses no greater risk to human health than apples currently sold, has no impact on allergies and is not different in nutritional value than non-GM apples.
The Arctic Fuji had already been approved for sales in the U.S. by USDA in September, 2016.
Arctic Golden Delicious and Granny Smith have been approved in both countries and OSF plans to submit requests for approval of an Arctic Gala later this year or early next year. Approval takes about nine months in the U.S. and more than twice that in Canada, Carter said. OSF is considering other varieties, he said.
Carter, company founder, silenced a gene, reducing the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) to prevent browning when apples are sliced, bitten or bruised. The apples match the industry norm of not browning for three weeks after slicing but without using flavor-altering, chemical additives that the rest of the fresh-sliced apple industry uses.
OSF touts its slices as preservative free.
OSF grows most of its apples in undisclosed orchards in Washington state and is aggressively planting to increase volume to become a national brand in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, Carter said.
“We are pursuing regulatory approval in Mexico and Argentina right now,” he said.
The company will have 660 acres of orchards in Washington by the end of 2018, growing to 1,450 by mid-2019 and in 2020 will plant an additional 1,000 acres in Washington and the East Coast, he said.
So far, orchards are all company owned but contract growers likely will join, Carter said.
Washington has been the focus because of the availability of large tracts of land and because it’s good apple country, he said.
The company is considering several sites in Washington to build a storage, processing and packing facility. Currently, it slices apples on its own line in facilities of another company in the Pacific Northwest.
Sales have only been in the U.S.
“In Canada, you have to have packaging in both English and French so it’s not worth doing until we have more fruit,” Carter said. “We may have a small amount here late this year from the 2018 crop.”