The emphasis on flavorful fruit continues for melon marketers.
Domestic production begins for numerous companies in May, and several grower-shippers said they have been prioritizing taste.
Attributes like shelf life, disease resistance and others remain key for producers and retailers, but flavor is what resonates with shoppers.
“Because of the Origami and other varieties coming into play, I think you’re seeing a rebound back towards that type of melon,” said Daren Van Dyke, sales and marketing director for Brawley, Calif.-based Five Crowns Marketing. “In the past what we’ve done is, as an industry ... what happened is we got a little bit away from flavor, and I think that’s what you’re seeing right now is, at least for us, we want to focus on giving the consumer the best piece of fruit possible and bringing that consumer back to the product.”
Josh Leichter, general manager for Los Angeles-based Pacific Trellis Fruit/Dulcinea Farms, also described an emphasis on flavor.
“I think for ourselves, as retailers continue to recognize the importance of taste and flavor as it relates to repeat sales and consumer satisfaction, that plays very well to our portfolio of products, which are known for delivering a consistently high level of quality and eating experience, so I think continuing to focus on that is a big opportunity for us with our products,” Leichter said.
Pacific Trellis Fruit/Dulcinea offers the Tuscan-Style Extra Sweet cantaloupe, while Five Crowns Marketing and Dos Palos, Calif.-based grower-shipper Legend Produce carry the Origami cantaloupe.
Van Dyke explained that, based on his experience with Origami, flavorful melons can prompt higher melon sales in multiple segments.
“Not only are they seeing (increased sales) from a (whole fruit) side, where they display it fresh and they’re getting that aroma, that really high color that sells to the consumer, but I also think because of the flavor profile and because of the color and then the yield that they get from it, I think you’re seeing a big boost in (cut fruit sales),” Van Dyke said.
Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte, also mentioned that value-added is becoming more popular.
“In recent years, we have found that melon varieties suited for fresh-cut have helped increase the overall per capita consumption of melons,” Christou said. “With the rise of the ‘on-the-go’ consumer looking for healthy options to accommodate their busy lifestyles, suppliers must offer innovative value-added items with wide-ranging product assortment to succeed in this category.
“In addition to whole melons, we currently offer our a wide range of value-added varieties, including chunks, spears, Del Monte Fresh Cut Grab-N-Go cups, and watermelon in single spears in bags,” Christou said.
Matt Solana, vice president of operations and supply chain for Autryville, N.C.-based Jackson Farming Co., conveyed a similar impression.
“Fresh-cut continues to grow at a rapid pace with today’s consumer looking for convenience at every turn,” Solana said.
“This segment of the market has plenty of room to grow with the different offerings at each chain and in most cases expanded sections.”
Leichter said Pacific Trellis Fruit/Dulcinea Farms also continues to focus on organics.
“There’s good interest there across the broad retail spectrum,” Leichter said.
“We’ll have more organic acreage and volume basically throughout our entire spring and summer programs, starting with the Hermosillo crop (in Mexico) and moving all the way up through the San Joaquin Valley.
“In addition to that we have this year our first year we’re offering Fair Trade Certified product from our grower partner in Hermosillo, who’s just about to get started, and we’re seeing good interest on that,” Leichter said in late March.
Heriberto Hernandez, salesman for Westley, Calif.-based Del Mar Packing, also reported increasing requests for organics.
“People are more conscious about what they’re eating, and organic is the way to go,” Hernandez said.
“You see retailers promoting it, so we have seen a lot of the demand increase on that item.”