Summerland company that developed Arctic Apple acquired for $41 million

Company sold for $41 million to Intrexon, a U.S. company that styles itself as a leader in synthetic biology.

Summerland’s Okanagan Specialty Fruits has been drawing international attention over the last few years for its development of an apple that doesn’t turn brown after slicing.

They’ve also drawn the attention of a major player.

On Feb. 27, Neal Carter, founder of OSF, announced the company had been sold for $41 million to Intrexon, a U.S. company that styles itself as a leader in synthetic biology. Through the acquisition, Intrexon expands its food programs to include trees yielding fruit that is more appetizing and convenient for consumers while providing economic benefit throughout the tree fruit supply chain.

Carter, who will be remaining with OSF after the acquisition is complete, developed his line of Arctic Apple varieties using genetic techniques to switch off the gene that controls the enzyme that turns the white flesh of apples brown after exposure to air. He claims that not only makes them more attractive to the pre-packaged food industry, but the apples retain their nutritional value longer.

“We are committed to bringing better versions of consumers’ favourite fruits to their grocery stores and kitchens, while addressing additional novel traits in tree fruits that reduce waste and address supply chain challenges,” said Carter in a release. “Joining forces with Intrexon and applying our combined technical know-how is an important step to introducing beneficial products for consumers and growers.”

Carter has targeted the fresh-cut fruit and vegetable industry as a key market for Arctic apples, which don’t require the addition of flavour-altering anti-browning additives to remain fresh looking.

Arctic Apples recently gained regulatory approval in the U.S., and are well on their way through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s process. Carter said their technique doesn’t introduce any foreign genes into the apple, instead using one of the apple’s own genes to make the changes. OSF has put the apples through years of field testing in their quest to gain regulatory approval for the Arctic Apple line, which includes genetically modified versions of Granny, Golden, Fuji and Gala apples.

“Okanagan is a world leader in the development of fruit-bearing plants to express enhanced, advantageous traits with tremendous potential to revolutionize the tree fruit industry,” said Thomas R. Kasser, PhD, senior vice president and head of Intrexon’s food sector.  “Through this acquisition, we can deliver more accessible and affordable choices of high-quality foods for an ever-growing population.”

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