The melon is a flagship product of the company Rouquette, which has nearly doubled its volumes over the past four years. “Our investment on our melon production is more and more important, both in the province of Cádiz, in Andalusia, and on our territory of Tarn-et-Garonne, in southwestern France. We are rewarded by our clients’ satisfaction both in terms of quantity and quality, on a product that we master from A to Z,” explains Julien Causse, commercial representative at Rouquette.
The company has 450 hectares of Charentais melons in Spain with a harvest potential of 8,000 tons and 250 hectares in France for 6,000 tons.
A complicated start of the season
In terms of production, the Spanish season did not start too well. “The beginning of the season was indeed quite chaotic. Like most operators, we experienced difficulties with both yields and calibers (smaller than usual). So we had to adapt our marketing to this situation, mainly by offering different formats than usual,” explains Julien.
Then, when the volumes intensified and the sizes increased, meeting the customers’ demands, consumption would not take off. “During weeks 22 to 25, the weather did not make it any easier for us. We did not really have a nice spring this year. The quality of the melons is optimal, the calibers are good again, but the consumption is still low. The arrival of the summer has now revitalized the campaign, which still gives hope for a positive end of the season in Spain.”
In a few days, the melon harvest in the southwest will start. “Each year, the French season represents a challenge for all marketers of the three production areas in the southwest, southeast and Charente. There are indeed always some weeks during which the productions of the three areas ‘clash’, which generates an important volume, thus an imbalance between supply and demand. During this period, it is therefore particularly important to stand out by offering a quality product supported by a marketing strategy,” explains Céline Mura, export manager at Rouquette.
A premium brand with its own market already
The weather and market difficulties do not seem to affect the Belle Epoque premium brand, created two years ago by the company. “We can say that we are doing quite well, thanks to the quality of our products, especially through the Belle Epoque brand,” explains Julien. “The varieties for this brand were selected for their organoleptic and taste qualities, with among others a high Brix value,” adds Céline.
In fact, for two years, the company reviewed its strategy in order to create a strong and unique image, which applies to its entire range of fruits. “We used to have basic brands for each of our fruits and we would select the batch depending on the customers’ demand. But we did not really differentiate the quality of our products. Today, Belle Epoque allows us to do so. Through this premium brand, we value the quality of our fruits and we have a follow-up range,” explains Julien. The Belle Epoque products indeed include melons, but also apples, greengages and kiwis.
Although it entered the market only recently, Julien and Céline agree that it did not take long for Belle Epoque to find its audience. “It is working well. Customers keep asking for more and appreciate both the quality of the product and the nice wooden trays, which differentiate it from the standard brands. Now, people want Belle Epoque, in France as well as abroad.”
Julien Causse, Céline Mura and Bernard Moles, in the middle of the melon fields
The family group Rouquette is a shipper-producer, with three sites in France and one in Spain. Its range promotes especially the products of southwestern France, with apples, melons, kiwis, strawberries and plums. Rouquette sells these products on the French market as well as on the export markets on all distribution networks.
“We work approximately 50,000 tons of fruits per year, including 15,000 tons of melons, 15,000 to 20,000 tons of apples, 2,000 tons of plums, 9,000 tons of kiwis and 4,500 tons of strawberries,” explains Julien.
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