"Before he passed away, my grandfather asked me to promise that I would take care of his land. I kept my word and have actually introduced innovative products," explains Daniele Vitale, owner of Melograno Siciliano together with his brother Federico.
The company is located in Partinico (PA) and now covers approximately 30 hectares once covered solely by olive groves.
"Together with my brother Federico, we have decided to focus on an innovative crop. Many thought we were crazy, but actually pomegranates pushed the interest and enthusiasm of consumers. This is because of two factors: the growth in the functional food segment and the fruit's beneficial properties."
The company grows the Akko and Wonderful varieties, which are cultivated in a land where organic techniques are currently being introduced. The organic certification will be obtained starting with the next campaign.
Wonderful is the most popular variety, as it is an excellent cultivar in terms of productivity, size, color and shelf-life. Yields per hectare are approximately 30 tons. Wonderful pomegranates have a bright red color and arils are semi-soft. Plants are generally vigorous and production is constant albeit sensitive to water stress.
Harvesting starts in September and ends in December. Fruits are processed in a large storage warehouse covering around 500 sq m where they are sorted, graded and stored in a refrigerated unit until March. Sicily is perfect to grow this fruit thanks to its mild climate typical of Mediterranean areas and to its soil and weather conditions.
Demand for pomegranates grows year after year, especially when it comes to freshly-squeezed juice. The main sales channels are bars, niche stores, retailers and general markets. Most of the produce is sold fresh, while the remaining part is processed.
"We have been producing processed products as well, including pomegranate jam (100, 220 and 700 gr), Granatu (a pomegranate liqueur - 10, 50 and 70 cl), sparkling wine with juice and frozen juice. It is a range of genuine products processed artisanally with a high fruit content, little sugar and no thickener or preservative."
"Juices are obtained with an advanced cold squeezing technique that extracts the juice from the arils gently, maintaining the nutritional and organoleptic properties unaltered. In addition, the high quality is guaranteed by the low temperature during processing, which avoids oxidation. For the future, we are thinking about introducing avocados and almonds, for which demand always exceeds supply."