NEW ORLEANS — Itaueira Farms, a Brazilian producer of premium-quality Canary melons marketed under the "REI" brand, launched a fresh-cut version of the melon at the recent Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention, here, and company officials were delighted with the reaction from the trade.
Rodrigo Lima, president of Crown International USA, the North American marketing arm of Itaueira Farms, told The Produce News that the idea for a fresh-cut line has been a couple of years in the making,coinciding with a spike in the volume of the fruit being shipped to the United States.
By offering a fresh-cut options, he said, Itaueira has more flexibility to supply customers, who may have been looking for a specific size of melon not available at a particular time. Additionally, he said they had taken note of the trend toward consumer preference of fresh-cut items, which led to the development of a fresh-cut option.
But Lima views the fresh-cut program as complementary to the existing whole melon program.
"One will help the other," he said. "If people like the fresh-cut, we expect them to buy whole melons as well."
Lima said the fresh-cut line, which currently includes one- and two-pound clamshells, was two years in development "because we wanted to do it the right way. We finally got the right partners and moved forward. And we used the PMA Fresh Summit to launch it because of the success we have had here with our whole melons during the past five years."
The initial success of the fresh-cut launch has inspired Itaueira to create a new brand - "REI Fresh to Go" - that will soon include other items.
Lima said Itaueira intends to come out with fresh-cut version of Santa Claus melons, which he said is a larger melon with more crunch than the Canary. Additionally, the grower plans to launch a fresh-cut premium watermelon. Both of those new items are expected to be ready by next September, he said.
Lima said the strategy will be to approach customers who are already buying whole melons and give them the option to add the fresh-cut version to their offerings.
Regarding this year's PMA Fresh Summit convention, Carlos Prado, president of Itaueira Farms, said, "It has been fantastic. We actually closed a deal with the largest supermarket in Brazil during this show. It just proves how this has become such an international show because here we are in the United States doing business with a supermarket from our own country."
He noted that the Itaueira booth saw visitors from Russia, Spain, Italy and China, in addition to the aforementioned Brazil and, of course, the United States.
Prado also said he was proud of the reception of Itaueira's melons at the 5k race.
"We had a table with our melons for the runners, and it was mobbed," he said. "There were a couple of other tables with samples of other fruits, but no one was going there. Everyone wanted our melons."