(Oct. 10) In an attempt to provide consumers a better-tasting winter melon, Fresh Quest Produce, Pompano Beach, Fla., plans to roll out what it calls an improved cantaloupe with a consistent eating experience.

Fresh Quest, one of the largest melon importers, is marketing the new melon as having high sugar content, with a target brix level of 14. The company positions the cantaloupe as helping consumers pick a ripe melon at the store.

The variety possesses a sweeter flavor than traditional cantaloupes, has good external appearance and shelf life a week longer than regular imported melons, said Lou Kertesz Jr., vice president.

Calling it a new-generation melon, Fresh Quest expects the proprietary variety to constitute all of its winter imports this season, Kertesz said. The variety, grown on Fresh Quest’s farms in Guatemala and Honduras, will ship during the mid-November through late-May offshore season.

“For years, the offshore program has been tabbed as a melon but not like a summer melon,” Kertesz said. “We want to take the guesswork out of the consumers guessing if a melon is good or not. This will make things a lot easier for everyone.”

Winter melon movement consistently remains lower than summer melons, he said.

Because of the way Fresh Quest packages its melons and the other steps its takes from production to distribution through Miami; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Philadelphia; and Long Beach, Calif., ports, Kertesz said the company believes its winter melons exceed the quality of many summer melons. For years, he said, he wasn’t confident he could make that claim.

Traditional cantaloupes have difficulty meeting all the customer specifications of high brix, fruit firmness, flavor and shelf life, Kertesz said. He said the company’s new offering, which went through four years of varietal testing, should help drive imported melon sales through a more reliable and consistent eating experience.

“People in general have abused the ripe and ready sticker program,” Kertesz said. “Over the years, as seed companies have evolved, you can have a melon that has nice flavor and color, but doesn’t have the (needed) sugars. Every time a consumer bites into this cantaloupe, it will be sweet and ready to eat.”

Fresh Quest expects to ship nearly 6 million 40-pound boxes of cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon this season, 17% more than last season’s 5 million packages, Kertesz said.

Cantaloupes constitute two-thirds of Fresh Quest’s shipments, with honeydews accounting for nearly a third and watermelon less than 5%, Kertesz said.

Because specialty melons don’t command as much store shelf space as regular melons, Kertesz said he preferred to market the new melon as a staple melon. Retailers also have difficulty selling the higher-costing specialty melons, he said.

Florida importer to market  ‘improved cantaloupe’
Above, slices of a new winter melon from Pompano Beach, Fla.-based importer Fresh Quest Produce. Fresh Quest touts the melon as a high-sugar-content cantaloupe with an extended shelf life as compared to a typical imported melon.