“That’s a good market segment to have some volume in.”
Girvin said L&M is constantly working on finding the best melon variety for the fresh-cut sector, although it doesn’t sell fresh-cut melons itself.
“We have varieties that when cut and merchandised in the convenience case at retail, the color is more vivid than some traditional varieties, presenting a more colorful and exciting appearance,” Girvin said.
In addition to its cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon programs, Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce also ships specialty melons and fresh-cut melon products.
“Purchases are up, however, consumers continue to look for a first-class taste experience that has simply not been there in many of the melon varieties now being sold,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing.
Retailers embrace specialty melons
Retailers are trying new varieties and are carrying more SKUs, a trend Del Monte has embraced by putting resources into research and development to bring new melon varieties into the pipeline, Christou said.
Nogales, Ariz.-based Al Harrison Produce Co. also ships specialty melons, including a yellow-flesh seedless watermelon.
Melon growers are constantly looking for new seed varieties and growing methods that can improve their products.
“There are seeds we’ve used 15 years plus, but we’re constantly doing trials with our growers,” said Brent Harrison, president of Al Harrison Produce.
“If a seed company has something they’re ready to test, we’ll put in a few rows in our field.”
The ideal watermelon is in the 13- to 18-pound weight range and is consistent on quality, Harrison said.
“If they have a great melon, they’re going to come back,” Harrison said.
“If they have one that’s just so-so, they’ll switch to another commodity, won’t be back for a week or two, maybe longer.”
Lawrence said Timco Worldwide is continuing its relationship with Israel-based Origine, a seed company, to develop exclusive melon varieties.
One of its goals is to develop a seedless watermelon that has the flavor qualities of a seeded variety.
“A lot of people will tell you seeded tastes better than a seedless,” Lawrence said. “So we’re working on developing a seedless watermelon with the seeded experience.”
Lawrence said the company’s focus is really on flavor, and that it sees the melon itself as just a container.
Central American Produce is growing super-sweet varieties of cantaloupe, Warren said. The company also concentrates on harvesting more frequently to make sure the fruit provides a consistent flavor, he said.