( Courtesy NWPB )

The National Watermelon Promotion Board’s 2019 plans include investing in nutrition research and focusing on the plant-based diet trend.

Studies will look into watermelon’s potential for weight-loss and digestive health, effects on post-exercise recovery, beneficial compounds in different parts of watermelons and using juice to support cardiometabolic health, according to a news release.

“Investing in nutrition studies will give us new data to inform messages that can be shared with influencers, like dietitians and media, to encourage watermelon consumption in specific recommendations,” Stephanie Barlow, the board’s senior director of communications, said in the release.

Jesse Wiggins, president of the group’s board, said research has always been the “backbone” of NWPB promotions, but the current emphasis is to uncover and create new opportunities.

“We’re looking holistically at consumer behavior, nutrition research, retail data and menu trends to market watermelon in different niches,” Wiggins, a fourth-generation grower and millennial, said in the release.

The NWPB is participating in the Culinary Institute of America’s Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit May 1-3 in California’s Napa Valley, which will connect board members with food distributors and restaurant operators who are on the forefront of plant-based trends.

“Plant-based plates are a culinary mega-trend we can use to position watermelon for foodservice,” Megan McKenna, NWPB foodservice director, said in the release.

Barlow said marketing watermelon in a way that “captivates and inspires modern audiences” is a goal for the group.

The NWPB’s Back to Basics consumer campaign seeks to turn watermelons into an eating experience, delivering easy applications that are big on flavor and show the fruit’s journey from field to table, according to the release.

“Today’s consumers want to know where their fruit comes from,” Wiggin said in the release. “They enjoy seeing the face of the farmer and knowing families and young people are devoted to growing watermelon.”

The board’s retail program involves merchandising representative and state/regional watermelon queens with store visits to educate consumers on flavor pairings, handling and selection tips.

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