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Melon production in transition

Melon production in the Southwest is winding down as harvesting picks up in California's Central Valley. Growers are pleased with this year's quality as more growers are looking to new melon varieties to woo consumers.

“Arizona production will wind down during the next week,” said Barry Zwillinger, owner and CEO of Legend Produce. “California is picking up steam and hitting a good stride with volume. I think the California harvest will hit a peak this week and have a nice run of volume for the next three months out of the Central Valley.”

Zwillinger characterized growing conditions in the desert as very favorable to a good crop this year. He pointed to minimal humidity and high heat these last few months as contributors to good-tasting melons.

“These conditions are the best cantaloupes can ask for,” he explained. “They increase flavor and sugar content, and we've seen similar conditions in our California growing areas.”

Because Legend focuses on the segment of the market that buys higher-quality melons, a majority of its melons are sold via contract. But, on the spot market, demand has been fairly light. On July 11, prices for a half-carton of cantaloupes from California and Arizona's desert regions were between $8.00 and $8.95 for 9s, and prices for a two-thirds carton of honeydews were between $7.00 and $8.00 for a carton of 5s.

Flavor profiles changing
Zwillinger sees the market for melons evolving in the U.S. In the past, growers would prioritize fruit characteristics that optimized production yields and and made it more cost-effective to pack and ship melons. But attitudes about what's the best melon for the market are now more focused on flavor.

“People are demanding more flavor, so the market will have to focus more on that,” said Zwillinger. “Overall demand for melons this year is down from last year, and that's because a lot of varieties out there don't deliver on flavor.” He pointed to Legend's Origami melon as evidence that new, flavor-focused melons are what consumers want. A premium melon found in retail and club stores, the Origami has a high sugar content and intense flavors.

“Sales of the Origami have increased by 300 percent since we introduced it,” said Zwillinger. “Those sales come from the flavor profile of the melon.”

For more information:
Barry Zwillinger
Legend Produce
+1 209 392 6515

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