Locally grown efforts are important for Texas melon grower-shippers.
More than 90% of the Texas cantaloupe crop stays in state, says Bruce Frasier, president, Dixondale Farms, Carrizo Springs, Texas.
Hot summer weather in Texas doesn’t present a lot of options for seasonal produce. The citrus season is over, as well as onions, cabbage and most other vegetables.
“Not many things are being grown here in July and August, so there are very few things to promote,” he said.
Frasier said this presents a unique opportunity to promote the fruit as being locally grown.
“Retailers are really searching for Texas-grown products and this fits in well,” he said.
To take full advantage of the trend of shoppers looking for a personal connection to their food, Frasier said some retailers use photos and signage of his family to tell the story of the local cantaloupes.
Locally grown efforts also work for watermelon because they are grown in several states across the U.S., according to grower-shippers.
“Watermelons are a good fit for locally grown efforts because if you’re buying watermelon, it’s a good chance it was grown somewhere nearby, compared to some items that are only grown in California,” said Michael Martori, vice president of sales, Pura Vida Farms LLC, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Pura Vida uses quick-response codes on its melons to direct consumers to information on where each melon is grown. Their website offers the growing season and sourcing information for each of their melons, from watermelons to honeydews, cantaloupes and other mixed melons.
“There are passionate consumers that want to know that information, so you have to be ready to supply that,” Martori said.
Farmers markets are also important to the locally grown movement.
“It’s a very important part of the market. Folks go there because they have a sense of pride in supporting their local farmer,” said Jeff Fawcett, sales manager for Edinburg, Texas-based Bagley Produce Co.
Juliemar Rosado, marketing communications manager for the Orlando, Fla.-based National Watermelon Promotion Board, said the farmer’s market segment is certainly growing.
“There are a lot more popping up every year,” she said.
While the national board doesn’t offer any specific programs to promote local melons, Rosado said they support state boards in those efforts.
“We assist the regional and state boards. We know it’s important for folks to know where their watermelon is coming from. The watermelon queens are great local promotion ambassadors,” she said.
Although watermelons may dominate melon sales when compared to honeydews and other specialty melons, there are still shoppers who demand those options at retail.
“Having a variety of offerings in the melon category is essential because the occasion and usage is different to the different consumers in the market,” Monique McLaws, marketing director, Dulcinea Farms LLC, Ladera Ranch, Calif., said in an e-mail.
In fact, McLaws said that by offering a wide variety of melon options, and placing them on ad together, interest increases for the category.
“We see some of our best promotions are when we offer mix and match ads for our PureHeart watermelons and Tuscan cantaloupes,” she said.
According to The Packer’s 2014 Fresh Trends report, only 46% of consumers report purchasing a cantaloupe in the past 12 months, compared with 49% last year. This dropped the melon from the seventh most popular fruit to the No. 10 spot.
Honeydews also saw a decline with a fall of two points, from 25% to 23%.
The likelihood of a watermelon purchase also decreased from 60% to 54%, but the fruit remained the sixth most popular fruit.