CMI Orchards' Steve Lutz Talks Kanzi® Apples in Space
WENATCHEE, WA – The sky is no longer the limit, it seems for CMI Orchards. CMI Orchards’ Kanzi® branded apples received a rare honor this February when the exceptionally flavorful variety was selected to be launched into space to provide astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) much needed fresh food.
An even more rarified experience was in store for Steve Lutz, VP of Marketing, though, when the company received a surprise personal thank you from two astronauts—calling the company from earth’s orbit.
I recently spoke to Steve about the experience and the apples that made it possible.
“I had to ask a couple times when they said it was NASA: ‘Say that again? You’re calling from where?’”
I struggled to imagine fielding a call from two people traveling 17,500 mph, 220 miles above the surface of the earth.
“It’s one of those things where you hang up, and you are just speechless,” said Steve. “It’s just something you don’t anticipate—that you’d talk to astronauts orbiting the earth. To actually talk with astronauts—roaming above the earth, above the Galapagos Islands—that are calling us to say thank you for the apples we sent into space is just something you don’t expect to happen in the course of your career.”
And the content of the phone call? Kanzi® apples’ out of this world flavor.
“We sent the Kanzi® apples up into space on the Space X resupply rocket about a week and a half ago,” Steve explained, “and they received the apples, and were apparently so delighted with them they wanted to call us up and say thank you.”
The crew of the ISS just could not get enough Kanzi® apples.
“They get such a limited supply of fresh food; they absolutely crave it,” Steve told me. “We were only allowed to send up a dozen or so apples, so they are a pretty valuable commodity by the time they get up in space. And Kanzi® is a very intensely flavored apple, so I think for the astronauts, that was icing on the cake. I think they were totally wowed by getting those apples.”
For the crew of the ISS, apples and other fresh offerings can be, very literally, a valuable commodity. Just last year, Business Insider estimated the cost of sending a lemon into space on a resupply vessel at a whopping $2,000.
Astronauts’ menus are carefully chosen to minimize weight and maximize nutrition, and historically, they have been subjected to all manner of desiccated and freeze-dried foods, tubes of pureed pastes, and an infamously bad coffee.
But since the infancy of the space program, technological and logistical innovations have resulted in the ability to ship astronauts more than unappetizing pastes and powders, and fresh and flavorful offerings like Kanzi® apples can be shipped in limited quantities to the ISS’s crew.
And CMI Orchards is proud to contribute to the space program in this way.
“It’s nice to know that we can produce an apple that makes an impression, that gets people excited—even into outer space. And that’s what makes this so exciting for us. We know that when we send these out we get happy consumers, but to have them reach so far, to have astronauts delighted by them is really exciting,” Steve explained to me, noting that the company had previous worked with NASA to launch Kiku® apples into space last year.
For more on the produce in earth’s orbit, stay tuned to AndNowUKnow.