The 1st Arctic® varieties: Rebranding Granny Smiths (Part 1)

In our four-part series highlighting why the first two Arctic® apples – Arctic® Golden and Arctic® Granny – are poised to revitalize two amazing varieties, we’ve previously focused on the Arctic® Golden. We now turn to why the nonbrowning trait makes the Arctic® Granny well suited to put Grannies back among leading apple varieties:

An apple by any other name…

First of all – yes, there was a real Granny Smith! The apple’s namesake was a prominent figure in colonial Australia in the mid-1800s. After discovering the new variety – a chance seedling on her small orchard property – she found it to be a wonderful apple for both cooking and eating fresh.Arctic Granny

As an interesting aside, because the first Granny Smith tree received its unique characteristics from a rare mutation, its seeds don’t carry many of the original’s desirable features. Instead, they tend to produce tart, unappealing apples. So, all Granny Smith apple trees growing today are derived from cuttings of the original tree in Sydney (see more on apple propagation via grafting here)! And from these unique origins, Granny Smith’s apples quickly became a big hit in her community, though it would be years before they’d take off in North America…

A rise to prominence

By the early 1980s, Granny Smith apples were starting to gain popularity in North American thanks to Australian imports (where Grannies made up ~40% of the entire apple crop!) and consumers became hooked. Thus, Granny Smith production steadily increased over the next couple decades, climbing into the top-5 U.S. varieties in the early 90s and staying there ever since.

Opportunities lie ahead

In our profile of Golden Delicious and their unfortunate decrease in popularity, the supply chain issues they face and how the nonbrowning trait can help overcome them was a central theme. That’s not exactly the case for Granny Smith, as while they have faced increased competition from other varieties, their production has remained fairly steady, only slightly lower today than their peak in the mid-2000s.

Perhaps that’s because, as Orange Pippin suggests, they’re the single “most instantly recognized of all apples”. This iconic status is well earned thanks to their distinctive taste and green coloring, along with their refreshing crispness. They’re even ranked as one of the healthiest varieties due to their particularly high antioxidant and phenolic levels. Plus, they also store as well as nearly any commercial variety!

So, rather than the nonbrowning Arctic® advantage addressing supply-chain problems like for Goldens, the variety-specific value Arctic® Grannies offer, is that they play to the natural strengths of Granny Smith. As we’ll explain in next week’s post, we’re sure nonbrowning will help take this delectable variety to new heights!

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About Joel Brooks

Growing up in the Okanagan Valley, Joel had the opportunity to experience apple growing first hand, a background that helped lead him to his role as Product & Special Projects Manager. Joel feels privileged to work with such great people towards a goal that’s so easy to get behind – helping people to eat more apples!


  1. Helena Preston

    The Arctic apples are not “varieties”, as I’m sure you must be aware. Apple varieties are natural crosses. These are genetically-engineered organisms. There already exists a perfectly good, non-browning apple that is widely available — the “Empire”. But people recognize Granny Smith, so there’s money in it. But for whom?

    Before we unquestioningly and smilingly swallow GMOs lock, stock, and barrel, I hope consumers take a hard look at who is really benefiting from patenting life. In this case, as you well know, it is the U.S. billionaire Randal Kirk, who is the GMO puppet-master behind this company and other food-related technologies, the ethics of which (let alone the longer-term consequences) have never been dealt with, either by governments or regulatory authorities. Yes, it may be new, yes, it may be useful, yes, it might possibly be safe to eat, but is it right? Because it CAN be done, MUST it be done?

    Of all people, apple growers should understand the incredibly rich varietal heritage that has been passed down over hundreds, if not thousands of years of careful natural selection. An accidental cross with a man-made GMO could produce completely unintended and unplanned results. One need only look at canola as a cautionary tale — it is now impossible to grow completely GMO-free canola in many places in western Canada, i.e. farming canola organically is virtually finished in those areas. For an organic apple producer, the possibility of genetic contamination is nothing short of a horror.

    Shame on all those who promote such things as the latest technological novelty, looking to make more money without a second thought about the possible long-term implications for agricultural, and for life on Earth for that matter. Is there anything left that is sacred and protected from tinkering by man, who in reality does not understand (or care to consider) the full consequences of his meddling before unleashing such “products”?

    Even though their reasons may be misguided or scientifically unfounded, thank God many consumers will not be buying this hype. Apples are an iconic staple. I hope consumers reject this resoundingly.

    • Jessica Brady

      Hello Helena,

      Arctic® apples were developed by Neal Carter, an orchardist who wanted to improve apple consumption and saw potential in GE technology while touring Australia. Neal remains the President of Okanagan Specialty Fruits and looks forward to Arctic® apples offering more options for growers and consumers alike.
      Because apples are not inherently ‘weedy’ plants, concerns over cross contamination are low. We invite you to learn more in this blog post:
      After 10 years of field trials and having been deemed safe for food consumption and the environment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, we are confident in that Arctic® apples will be a benefit to producers and consumers. You can learn more by reading our USDA APHIS petition which outlines the safety of Arctic® apples here:
      Please let me know if you have any other questions, we are always happy to take part in respectful discussions.

      Have a good day,