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Javier Carmona, marketing director at La Unión Corp:

"There's a growing focus on brands in the melon and watermelon category"

The watermelon season is just starting in Almeria. The first batches of the fruit have reached the market at a time when the weather in Europe is not ideal to motivate consumption; however, they are also facing less competition from third countries, such as Senegal, where the acreage has been reduced compared to last season and logistical difficulties have taken a toll.

In this category of summer fruits, the premium segment has become increasingly important, as have brands, such as Taramay, for which watermelon is one of its main products. 

"Taramay was founded two years ago as a company of La Union Corp group devoted mainly to the marketing of high quality tropical fruits from the Tropical Coast of Granada and the Axarquia of Malaga. However, its success allowed it to expand and increase its portfolio, adding conventional fruits such as strawberries, loquats, prickly pear, melon or watermelon, and tropical and exotic fruits both domestic and imported. Today, more than a tropical fruit brand, it is a leader in the sale of premium fruit," says Javier Carmona, marketing director of La Unión Corp.
 
But the brand's expansion has not only gone hand in hand with the expansion of its range of products. As Javier explains, La Unión is carrying out a market research process with the idea of opening both new marketing channels and new markets, without neglecting innovation and the search for added value in its products.

"We have incorporated technology within the brand to market fruit of the highest quality. For example, in the case of melon and watermelon, we use NIRS (near infrared spectroscopy) technology, with which we can determine the Brix degrees of each piece. This way, we can select the fruit that has the perfect characteristics to be marketed under our brand." In other words, fruit that is "always sweet"; the distinctive characteristic of the company's products and the slogan of the new promotional campaign for the Taramay premium watermelon line.
 
The brand as a differentiating factor 
According to Javier Carmona, brands are necessary to be able to offer quality products and stand out in the market, and there is actually a growing focus on brands in the melon and watermelon category.

"Competition has atomized not only because of the entry of greater volumes from third countries, but also because local producers are able to obtain better qualities. Then also because, in some cases, we have found greater difficulties or barriers to entry to the destinations to which we export, as has been the case with the Russian veto, Brexit or the conflict with the United States. In addition to these factors, there is a trend in the market of consumers moving from the specialist channel to dynamic channels, mainly in the retail sector, where consumer behavior and the structure of their shopping basket are completely different," says the marketing director. "Moreover, you also have to compete for consumption moments, with consumers having to decide which product to choose from different categories." 

"At this point it is absolutely necessary not only to offer a quality product, but to seek differentiation through a brand." Like Taramay, Javier says. "In fact, we expect to grow compared to last year with the marketing of 60 million kilos of melons and watermelons."  

With the campaign already underway, all we have to do is wait for an improvement in the weather conditions in Europe so that the demand for watermelons can increase, as it is currently curbed by low temperatures. "Last week, sales started to pick up a little in the markets, but fortunately, the same weather factor is giving us a little respite. The fruit is not ripening so quickly and the growth in the production is keeping pace with the increase in the demand."  
 
Frozen fruit and vegetables with an innovative patented process
The impact of the pandemic on the horeca channel since the coronavirus started spreading in Europe in March last year has been undeniable; however, it has also resulted in consumption figures that reveal interesting trends for various food ranges. 

"Overall, in 2020 the FMCG food market was reduced by 2.8%," says Javier. "The drop in out-of-home food, which includes the horeca channel, was of 36.4%; however, in-home food grew by 14.9% due to the lockdowns, with a 15.2% rise in the case of fresh food. Specifically, fruits and vegetables grew by 19.8%." 

"But it is important to highlight the case of packaged food," says the professional. "In 2019, it was already growing by 24% year-on-year, and in 2020, despite the crisis, it has grown by 13.9% in the case of cooked dishes and by 14.3% in that of frozen foods. These are very striking growths, taking into account that the population was buying cooked dishes while also being at home. This shows the strength of this segment and a clear and stable consumer trend in this category." 

These data back La Unión Corp's commitment to fresh-cut and ready-to-eat convenience food products, which has led to the construction of its new plant in Adra, Almería, where it will produce frozen fruits and vegetables with an innovative process patented by Nice Tech which preserves the products' organoleptic and structural properties after being frozen and thawed. "This new project will allow us to diversify our supply in terms of production, channels and markets, and will allow us to reach more distant markets," says the head of La Unión Corp. 

 

For more information:
Javier Carmona
La Unión Corp.
Pol. Industrial La Redonda – N-340 KM 414
04700 – El Ejido – Almería, Spain
M: (+34) 673 633 887
T: (+34) 950 58 08 00 – Ext. 314
jcarmona@launioncorp.com 
www.launioncorp.com


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