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Juan Sastre, Watermelon Crop Sales Manager of Nunhems for Europe and Middle East

"Spain: "Watermelon consumers appreciate flavour and texture over outer appearance"

Watermelons are a priority and a strategic market for Nunhems. Since the company updated its global strategy in 2008, it has demonstrated a sound knowledge of its customers' wishes. So much so, that Nunhems has managed to significantly increase its market share in Europe thanks to the development of new varieties in which flavour and texture are the most prominent features. Nunhems' watermelon specialists are already working on fruits adapted to the needs of the processing industry to make their consumption possible outside of the summer season.

What do watermelon consumers look for when deciding which to buy?
Without any doubt, flavour is the most important aspect for consumers. Our experience has shown that organoleptic qualities are much more important than outer appearance. 

Does quality increase consumption levels?
That's right. Nunhems' new flavour-rich varieties have led to an increase in watermelon consumption, both in Spain and the rest of Europe. We have popularised our black seedless watermelons in areas where the fruit was not highly consumed at all. We have managed to set a precedent through market research and our capacity for innovation.

What countries lead watermelon consumption in Europe?
In general, consumption in the European continent is on the rise. The increase in quality has led to a significant growth in Scandinavia, although France and Germany grow at the highest rate. Spain's case is also worth noting, a country where watermelons are already popular and whose consumption has increased by around 20% in recent years; around 2 kilos more per capita. 

What have Nunhems' priorities for innovation been so far?
In 2008, after the international watermelon convention that took place in Valencia (Spain), we designed a global strategy intended to increase watermelon consumption levels in producing countries while creating consumption habits where it is not as popular. In recent years, we have worked hard to supply watermelons with new textures, sweeter flavours and juicier flesh. We have introduced new varieties and made them profitable for growers.

Is quality the only aspect needed to attract faithful consumers?
Consumers look for brands they can trust. That is why it is so important to create an association between a brand and a quality product. Nunhems conducts its work in close collaboration with the producers, providing assistance in the creation of new brands and supporting the already existing ones. We also work with the commercial chain, as we know at all times what the distribution is looking for to attract faithful customers. 

What challenges lie ahead for Nunhems in the Spanish market?
For us, it is very important to continue improving the taste of our seedless watermelons and our new smaller varieties with microseeds, providing newly-developed products to the convenience sector, such as the Premium F1 variety. Furthermore, the great distribution chains require medium-sized calibres with the same organoleptic qualities as those of the larger calibres.

And what about the Italian market?
Our greatest challenge is to convince Italian consumers that seedless watermelons are just as tasty as those with seeds, but with a longer shelf life and a more appealing texture. In Italy, striped watermelons with seeds still hold about 90% of the market, which has a lot to do with cultural traditions and the age of consumers. For example, we have confirmed that watermelons with seeds are the favourite amongst consumers older than 40 years, while seedless watermelons are demanded by all ages. 

From the point of view of innovation, what are Nunhems' current projects? 
The priority at the moment is to conclude our research in new lines of development that can result in watermelons with a firmer pulp, especially adapted for their use by the processing industry and to be packaged in slices. We know that the future lies in out-of-season watermelon consumption and we are getting ready to meet that demand.

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