Specialties, fresh-cut energize melon category

04/19/2010 10:18:20 PM
Ashley Bentley

When miniature watermelon first hit the market, some were worried it might cannibalize the business of normal-sized melons.

So far, though, the traditional watermelon’s “Mini-Me” has been able to build up its own following without stealing any stomach from its master.

Gordon Hunt, marketing director for the Orlando, Fla.-based National Watermelon Promotion Board said 26% of mini watermelon consumption happens during the winter, when people’s watermelon consumption turns away from full-sized melons and toward the smaller or fresh-cut options.

“I don’t think it’ll ever reach the level of a regular seedless watermelon,” said Lou Kertesz, vice president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Fresh Quest Produce Inc.

“Minis we’ll offer as a variety, but I don’t see demand increasing that much on that variety.”

Personal-sized melons serve their purpose in the industry through being a value-added product to consumers, he said.

Woodland, Calif.-based Timco Worldwide Inc. has seen success in pushing mini watermelons in bins instead of cartons, said Rex Lawrence, vice president of operations.

“A few years ago we started putting minis in bins, and it validated a suspicion I had that if you can put a great product in a bin, you’re going to attract consumers’ attention because they can see it,” Lawrence said.

“Our retailers are selling more mini melons. We think it’s going to be bigger than ever.”

Lawrence said part of the success of the program, from the retailer’s perspective, is that the small melons can be sold per unit, instead of per pound. He said it benefits retailers to follow the same guidelines for regular-sized watermelons.

“We have found that when retailers sell seedless by the unit, it’s easier for the consumer,” Lawrence said.

He recalled visiting a retailer and watching a woman try to lift a full-sized watermelon onto a scale, and then trying to watch the dial as it circled the 10-pound circle more than once, to figure out the weight of the watermelon.

“She bought it, but I don’t think she knew how much she was going to pay for it until she got to check-out,” Lawrence said.

Allan Girvin, business development manager for L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., said his company has actually seen some changes to cartons over bins in the retail and foodservice sectors. The size of the actual melons ordered, however, has stayed the same.

Fresh-cut steps up

Fresh-cut melons also seem to be on the rise, according to some shippers.

“This year we actually see it increasing a little bit from last year,” said Michael Warren, president of Central American Produce, Pompano Beach.


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