How Do U Of M-Developed Apple Varieties Get Their Names?


This was originally published in 2019

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s the season for visiting apple orchards or stopping by the grocery store to pick up one of the eighteen apple varieties started by the University of Minnesota.

Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Zestar!, SnowSweet, First Kiss: How do these apples get their names? Good Question.

“I always say they’re easier to name than your children than it is apples because there’s no one that stands over you and says, ‘No, that’s not allowed,'” says David Bedford, an apple breeder at the University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Center.

He not only chooses the breeds of apples that eventually come from the U of M, he helps choose the names as well.

“There’s a whole list of dos and don’ts, cans and can’ts,” he says. “We try to navigate that.”

Bedford has learned the rules of trademarking names since he started working on it with Honeycrisp back in 1991. He now works with another apple breeder and two University of Minnesota trademark experts to cull through potential names.

First, they can’t be too descriptive. For example, they couldn’t call the apple “Tangyfruit” or “SweetandTart.”

He says that’s how his naming group came up with SweeTango in 2007. It suggested that apple was sweet and tangy.

Names also can’t be confused with other products. For example, when the group was coming up with names for Zestar!, they knew they couldn’t put zesty in the name. Instead, they went with “Zesta” and were promptly contacted by Keebler Foods, whose saltine cracker has the same name.

The group will go through 300 to 400 names before choosing the right one. They want something memorable, short, positive and easy to understand.

“And sometimes intriguing, like what does that mean,” he says.

That’s how First Kiss got its name. It has a positive connotation and it’s the first apple of the season.

SnowSweet is named partially for its flesh color.

“It’s as white as snow,” Beford said.

Honeycrisp was the first time Bedford helped to name an apple. He says it was easier back then. The honey came from Honeygold – a parent of Honeycrisp, and crisp wasn’t in the name of any apples at the time. Now, it’s part of 13.

In 2008, the University of Minnesota had a naming contest for Frostbite – a rarer apple variety. It was named for its heartiness and ability to survive temperatures of 40 below.

Among the submissions were Gopher Broke, Uffdalicious, Walter Mondapple and Lutecrisp. None of them made the cut.

“It’s a fun mental puzzle,” says Bedford. “We only have to do it every four or five years so it’s not overwhelming.”

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