Q&A with Sakata’s Melon Gurus
Dale Palmer, Assistant Area Sales Manager for Yuma and Santa Maria Regions, and Gattis Guffey, Sales Manager/Southeast Region and Watermelon and Melon Product Manager, talk about melon trends in the WEST.
What is an emerging trend in melon production in the West?
Dale: LSLs, of course!
Dale: Harper type or LSL (Long Shelf Life) melons are the newest trend in the San Joaquin Valley and our new Infinite Gold LSL melon is gaining a lot of attention due to the awesome combination of long shelf life holding ability and fantastic flavor.
Gattis: This characteristic gives the grower more flexibility as harvest time approaches. With Infinite Gold’s longer holding ability in and out of the field, growers are able to ship high-quality fruit longer distances and retailers enjoy longer holding ability on the shelf.
What are the benefits of LSL melons for the whole value chain?
Dale: LSL melons provide benefits at all levels of the value chain. Growers are seeing the benefit from the holding ability. Plus, they are also saving harvest costs because they only harvest a LSL melon field two to three times, compared to a western shipper cantaloupe where a grower can be harvesting a field more than eight times. This is especially important due to labor shortages.
Gattis: And, with Infinite Gold, retailers across the United States are receiving high quality melons at arrival with great flavor and that last longer on the shelf. The consumer is receiving a high quality cantaloupe with excellent flavor. This means that the consumer will return for another purchase, which means the retailer is selling more!
What challenges are you noting from your point of view thus far?
Dale: For Sakata, awareness, education and acceptance are always among the challenges of bringing an innovative product to the marketplace. There were previous LSL melon introductions by other companies that had great shelf life – but just didn’t have the flavor. That literally left a bad taste in the retailer’s and consumer’s mouth. Now with newer genetics like Infinite Gold – the flavor and the shelf life are there – both are making the grade. In fact, third-party analysis proves it. The performed by SCS Global Services gives Infinite Gold support and evidence to its outstanding flavor two years in a row compared to competitive varieties.
Gattis: One other thing to mention – Infinite Gold, like other LSL melons, looks a little different than traditional western shippers, not quite as tan colored. However, once retailers and consumers understand that the difference is only skin deep and that the flavor and shelf life are really phenomenal – those issues just melt away.
How is the growing season looking this year? Any weather issues as of yet?
Dale: December is off to a good start with above normal rainfall. But, the growing season is still up in the air for now due to the current drought situation. Growers will wait to receive their water allocations to confirm melon acreage for this growing season.
What is new moving forward with Sakata?
Gattis: Though Infinite Gold is the newest to our melon product line and gaining a lot of traction, there are others in the pipeline that are coming on, for example Timeless Gold LSL. Sakata is working hard to bring forth new varieties that can make a huge difference for the value chain.