Inventor of watermelon carton dies

08/27/2008 12:00:00 AM
Brian Frederick


Dietz

(Aug. 27, 10:25 a.m.) Matt Dietz, who invented the first watermelon carton in the U.S., died on July 27. He was 83.

Dietz began his career in the produce industry working for his father’s firm, Chicago-based watermelon distributor R.H. Dietz and Co., nephew Bill Dietz said.

In 1960, as a partner in Holiday Specialties Co., Chicago, Matt Dietz revolutionized the winter melon deal by inventing the first watermelon carton. Before this, the company had imported bulk watermelons from Mexico in the off-season.

Matt Dietz recognized that this was too much work for the light demand of winter months, so with Tony Hudler of International Paper Inc., Edinburg, Texas, he developed the carton. It held three to five peacock watermelons, which weighed between 70-75 pounds.

Recognizing the benefits of this carton, other manufacturers adopted the design, and soon it became an industry standard.

Additionally, Matt Dietz helped develop the first automatic bulk watermelon loading and grading machine in 1963.

In the mid-60s, Matt Dietz founded his own produce company, Matt Dietz Co., in Laredo, Texas, growing and shipping onions, cantaloupes, honeydews and watermelons in the Texas valley, Bill Dietz said.

Matt Dietz Co. suffered a series of legal setbacks and closed a few years ago, Bill Dietz said.

Additionally, Matt Dietz served as an officer for both the Texas Watermelon Association and the National Watermelon Association.

Matt Dietz’s brother, Robert H. Dietz Jr., assumed ownership of R.H. Dietz and Sons Inc. following their father’s death. His younger brother was a principal in Dietz & Kolodenko Co. Inc., another Chicago distributor. Both brothers and his sister, Helen, preceded him in death, Bill Dietz said.

Matt Dietz is survived by 15 nieces and nephews, many of whom are involved in the produce industry, Bill Dietz said.



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Cesar Salazar    
Hidalgo,Texas  |  January, 25, 2012 at 04:58 PM

i worked for Mr.Dietz for 22 years till the last day and he was a good man. He helped me and my family so much and i thank him for that. I also learned alot in those 22 years. Have a lot of good stories to share lol how he was from walking 5 miles at the mall everyday to going to florida and to acapulco i was there for the last 7 years lol plus he taught me how to play black jack that was his game from 8 am to 1 pm, pick him up from the blackjack table go eat come back at 2:30 pm till 7:00 pm eat dinner and go back to the black jack table till about 11:00 pm and do it all over again. did that for about 3 weeks straight at theL’Auberge Casino Resort lol he had a hell of a time. any questions u want to know about him email me back to loerasproducecesar@gmail.com

Scott Gwillim    
Carlinville Illinois  |  July, 17, 2012 at 12:36 PM

I grew up traveling with my grandpa and dad to load melons for Matt. I fondly remember Matt as a character from my childhood. I am here today looking for one of the silly watermelon hats he used to give out. I would like it as a momento of my time shared with grandpa in the fields.

BERNARD    
mexico  |  September, 04, 2012 at 12:15 AM

i was friend mr dietz 20 years he was very good person we travel together from laredo to acapulco i have a lots of remember pictures to mr. dietz god bless my friend i never forget you. bezg1@yahoo.com.mx

Robert H. Dietz IV    
laredo.tx/san antonio.tx  |  April, 02, 2013 at 10:46 PM

Fictitious lies Caesar. but I'm glad we gave you and you're famaliy a opertunity of a lifetime, Matt dietz sir. Was a great uncle and a great produce man. I am so blessed to have learned so much about the family biz from him and my father bob dietz III. Bob dietz is in my opinion one of the best sales person in the fresh produce market. He is my mentor and still is as we still are in the produce biz.I first started to work for the family biz in 98' till 2009. I've met some amazing people along the way. I started off working from the bottom till the top. From the fields to the office selling our produce along my wonderful father bob dietz. So I'm restful for everything I've learned from my uncle and father. Sincerely, robert H. dietz IV.

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