Cotton Candy Grape? What’s Next?

David Cain’s latest invention is part of a designer-fruit craze in which farmers try to create the next Cuties Clementine orange or Honeycrisp apple.

It’s not easy peddling fresh fruit to a nation of junk-food addicts. But in rural Kern County, Cain is working to win the stomachs and wallets of U.S. grocery shoppers.

Cain is a fruit breeder. His latest invention is called the Cotton Candy grape. Bite into one of these green globes and the taste triggers the unmistakable sensation of eating a puffy, pink ball of spun sugar.

By marrying select traits across thousands of nameless trial grapes, Cain and other breeders have developed patented varieties that pack enough sugar they may as well be Skittles on the vine. That’s no accident.

“We’re competing against candy bars and cookies,” said Cain, 62, a former scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who now heads research at privately owned International Fruit Genetics in Bakersfield.

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