Legend Produce and Five Crowns Marketing are backing increased sales of their Origami cantaloupe with more acreage, including the Westside of California’s San Joaquin Valley.

“Our acreage is up about 25% over last year because of Origami, and based on demand we’ll probably bump that up again,” said Daren Van Dyke, director of sales and marketing for Brawley, Calif.-based Five Crowns.

“On the Westside we increased 900 acres last year and another 1,200 this year,” said Barry Zwillinger, partner in Firebaugh, Calif.-based Legend Produce. Origami accounts for much of that growth.

“This will be our largest year in melons,” Zwillinger said. “We’ll do well over 9 million packages this year and over 7.5 million domestically.”

Five Crowns started Origami early, on April 28 in the Imperial Valley, and will offer it most of June. After a brief lull it will ship again from Bakersfield for three weeks in July.

Legend Produce, meanwhile, will have continuous availability all the way through the Westside deal. It will be shipping from Arizona to about July 10, while the Westside starts up around June 25.

“That’s very early for us and we’ll have promotable production by July 1,” said Barry Zwillinger, Legend Produce partner. “We will have big volume.”

Origami sales are spiking at retail, according to both companies.

“Certain retailers are seeing their business up 100% to 200% between their cut programs and their fresh fruit sales,” Van Dyke said. “Once it hits the shelf and the consumer gets it, they’re coming back for that fruit. We’re seeing a major uptick in movement at the retail level.”

“We have major retailers, club stores, foodservice and processors that have gone exclusively to the Origami,” Zwillinger said.

Compared to other melons, it’s on the pricey side. But that means Legend Produce isn’t fighting the market as much as some growers.

“Guys in the desert are selling cantaloupe for $6 to $7 and Origami is getting premiums $3 to $5 higher,” Zwillinger said. “I’m probably the most expensive guy out there, but I grow more than anybody and have the best demand on cantaloupes.”

Five Crowns credits Origami’s success to its flavor and shelf life.

“The Origami has the best of both the western shipper and the Harper types,” Van Dyke said. “The old western shipper varieties like Impact were the mainstay in the Imperial Valley. It’s a full slip melon with that true cantaloupe flavor and it cuts deep orange. The problem is that the industry has gone to more of the Harper types from offshore. They’re doing that because of shrink. They have the brix, they make the ride and stay firm. But they don’t have that true cantaloupe flavor.”

In California, Legend Produce will be growing melons in Bakersfield, Huron, Los Banos, Mendota and even Woodland, which is northwest of Sacramento.

“Because we’re in so many different growing regions, we don’t fight the water shortages that everybody talks about,” Zwillinger said. “We’re adapted to California’s water issues.”

 
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