France: Diversification gives Soldive good coverage throughout year

Initially founded out of a desire to diversify crops after a particularly bad frost in 1963, Soldive knows about not putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket. Now nearing their 50th year of growing melons, their operations in different parts of the world allow them to stretch their melon season to 10 months out of the year.

What is now known as Soldive was started by Pierre Fuzeau, and his brother Marcel, in the French Poitou-Charentes region after a season afflicted with frost. He saw the need to expand into different crops in case that adverse weather conditions should once again strike the region, so he decided to plant melons. The first brand he used was the Soleil de la Dive melon, and it's from there that the company took its name: Soldive.

“We're made up of seven production companies and one marketing company,” explained Audrey Brizard of Soldive. “We grow about 35,000 tons of melons per year on about 2,000 hectares spread across Senegal, Morrocco, Spain and France.” That expansion, however, did not come overnight. It started over 30 years ago with added growing areas in France and only concluded in 2006 with new operations in Senegal.

“Growing in Senegal allows us to offer off-season charentais melons for the Christmas holidays,” noted Brizard. The Senegalese season begins in November and continues through the end of the year, production is suspended for two months, after which it resumes in Senegal and Morrocco. Spain picks up in May and continues through June, French production comes online in June and continues through October. That kind of production and that kind of coverage makes Soldive the largest independent melon grower in France, and that's something which gives them an edge, according to Brizard.

In order to diversify its activities, the company began in 1991 to produce salads in Spain for the brand new fresh cut market. 20 years later, Soldive Spain became in winter the main provider of the European fresh cut industry. Throughout the years its range of salads expanded and nowadays the company cultivates all types of salads but also: herbs, baby leaves, spinachs, parsley…

“Everything's done by one single company, and everything's held to the same high standards,” she said. The standards to which they hold themselves include having GlobalGap certification for all of their operations as well as implementing Integrated Pest Management techniques to ensure sustainable growth.

“From variety selection, to planting, to harvesting, to packaging and marketing; we are a single and unique producer aiming at excellence.”

For more information:
Tel: +33 (0)5 49 67 41 61
Fax: +33 (0)5 49 67 43 56

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