SunFed is riding a tailwind of product innovation and successful rebranding efforts as winter approaches.
The Rio Rico, Ariz.-based grower-shipper began limited commercial trials of a new variety, Yum Melon, in the fall.
"It"s got a smooth outer surface like a honeydew, but it eats like a cantaloupe," said Brett Burdsal, director of marketing. "It"s a smaller melon. The rind and central cavity are very small, so you"re getting a lot of meat for its size. It"s one of those items that has to be picked ripe and shipped immediately to stores. It"s not easy to grow, but we fell in love with the flavor."
Yum Melon was first grown in the south of France. Fall production was underway in Mexico in Hermosillo and Guaymas. The plan is to go year-round and gradually widen distribution including exports to Asia.
"We"re working with the right retailers who can put up the signage, sample it, get the feedback we need and tell the consumer what it is," Burdsal said. "It"s a slow rollout so we can introduce it the right way."
Flavor is a trump card elsewhere in the SunFed product line as well.
"We are focusing on flavor over size or looks," Burdsal said. "We feel all signs are pointing this way."
The seedless watermelon rebranded as Melonheads, available in conventional and organic, was also chosen for its flavor. The Yum Melon, and eventually the Melonheads, will be grown in all regions of Mexico. Both are SunFed trademarks. Melonheads run spring through fall, and SunFed is working to create year-round supply.
"We developed a 2-pound mesh bag for the Melonheads debuting this spring," Burdsal said. "The two count will be customized to each customer."
Loose Melonheads carry one of six stickers.
"You get a Skittles or M&amp M effect and now you"ve got multiple colors on the shelf to attract the consumer"s attention," he said. "The idea was to rebrand some commodity items and give them more spark at the shelf level. Melonheads was our rebranding of our watermelon, and now we"ve got this bright, 60s-style pop label on it. We did that with great success with eggplant and long English cucumbers."
SunFed recently expanded its line of Perfect Produce products. Limes started shipping in September, marking the company"s entry into the tropicals category. They are shipped in 10- and 40-pound boxes, again with a 1960s pop look on the packaging.
"We"re very excited to be entering tropicals," Burdsal said. "We think we can use what we have learned with squash, peppers and others and apply it to this new growing category.  It"s the first step in tropicals for us, and we are working on a few more items as we speak. We"ve got some demand for it here and the right customer base."
Organic items have the company"s Perfect Organic label. SunFed has begun shipping those products with a band to help assure retailers collect the organic premium.
"We decided to do that at the farm," he said. "The bands just scream organic. We found they often weren"t rung up as organics at the register. Around 40% of organics are rung up as conventional. We don"t think we can get you that 40% back, but we can get you a lot closer."
Perfect Organic items from SunFed include bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, mini watermelon, roma and grape tomatoes.