Despite the increase, he does not see personals stealing much market share from full-sized watermelons.
“It’s a niche market,” he said. “I think it’s a steady deal.”
Fresh-Pik also expects to begin shipping cantaloupes in early July, about the same time as the company’s watermelon deal is expected to take off, Sharp said.
The company expects to market about 150 acres of cantaloupes grown by Southeast Growers Association co-op members, similar to last year, he said.
This year North Carolina growers will grow, mainly on a trial basis, new cantaloupe varieties in an effort to boost shelf life, Sharp said.
Fresh-Pik also ships sprite melons from about early July through August, Sharp said. Production of the specialty melon is expected to be up by about 10% this year because of higher demand, he said.
“It’s unique,” Sharp said, explaining the sprite’s rising popularity. “It has white flesh and extremely high brix — 16% to 18%, compared to 11% to 12% for cantaloupes. It just fits in good with the melon category.”
TC Smith Produce Farm expects to kick off its cantaloupe and watermelon deals in late June or early July, Smith said. Watermelon production is expected to be about the same, and cantaloupe acreage up slightly, he said.
The company expects to ship watermelons and cantaloupes through Labor Day, Smith said.
Blackberries and raspberries are among the fruits North Carolina is growing more of, said Nick Augostini, marketing specialist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Raleigh.
“It’s really picked up in the western part of the state,” he said.