By Breanna Kendrick
Melon 1 — a grower, packer and shipper of watermelons — has been shipping Florida watermelons all along the east coast to its customers for over 25 years.
Rachel Syngo, director of new business development for Melon1, recently attended the New York Produce Show in New York City. “We came to the show because … this is an area we absolutely have to be at, we love to attend, and we love to continue to cultivate those relationships up here so that we can continue to sell great Florida watermelons to the northeast,” she said.
Consumer preferences are always changing with the new melon varieties available in stores today. Syngo says consumers still want seedless watermelons, but there has been a push for more fresh-cut watermelons. “A lot of people want to buy their watermelons cut and in a clam shell,” explains Syngo. “That’s the biggest consumer-driven market right now, and it’s the fastest growing department in all of produce from the customers we do business with.”
A current trend in watermelons is firm flesh varieties,which have a much lower purge and maintain a firmer inside, especially when being cut. According to Syngo, firm flesh is great for those processors that ship directly once they cut the product or for stores like Publix that like to do their own cutting. “It seems like the yellow watermelon is making an appearance again,” adds Syngo. “We saw a lot of that this past summer,and we’ve seen a little bit of interest this winter as well.”
To stay on top of consumer demand and the ever-changing market, Syngo stresses that you can’t be afraid to take some risks. “We try to stay on the pulse of that by talking to our chain store connections there and we try to do a lot of consumer testing ourselves,” she explains.”We get out and try new things and see what folks are saying and then we have to preplan. We have to be ready very early on in the seed development side of things for new varieties. That’s a five- to seven-year process.”
Melon 1 is a winter supplier of watermelons. The business has farms in South Florida for a fall crop. There’s also a fall market in South Carolina. Both markets saw great pricing this year. “There’s always some risks in fall farming. You have hurricanes, and somehow this particular year we avoided Hurricane Michael,” explains Syngo. “Going into the spring, it was a challenging season last year. Mother Nature made it very hard on us. We had a lot of rain everywhere. So if we can avoid that this year, we think the market is going to bounce back really well. We know the supply will be there, and we just have to get it to the stores.”
Syngo says it is great to come to the New York Produce Show and see a lot of folks. In addition, Melon 1 attends the Southeast Produce Council,which she says is a great marriage of grower and retailer attendees. “That’s a really big one for us. It takes place in March. This year it’s going to be in Orlando, and we are going to be there,” Syngo concludes.
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