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Itaueira Farms launches new sliced melon product

ANAHEIM, CA — Itaueira Farms, which markets premium extra-sweet melons from Brazil under the "REI" brand, introduced a new sliced melon pack at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit Convention & Expo, here.

The launch of the new product follows the 2013 debut of a fresh-cut melon pack, which featured chunks of the premium Brazilian Canary melons for which the company has built a following for the past several years.Itauera1

Rodrigo Lima, president of Crown International USA, the Coral Gables, FL-based North American marketing arm of Itaueira Farms, said the launch of the sliced melon pack is a continuation of the effort to offer more convenience for consumers who savor the flavor of the super premium melon.

"It's ready to eat, with no fork necessary," Lima said of the rind-on melon slices. "It's very convenient for consumers and another way to help increase consumption of the melons."

Lima said Itaueira is working to bring additional melon varieties from Brazil to the United States. He said the grower is about a year away from offering a Galia melon, and will have a limited supply of a Santa Claus melon as well.

"Itaueira has a policy of working with only the highest-quality producers in Brazil," said Lima. "With the Galia melon, we have four years in research and development and expect to begin shipments next year. Right now, the Galia melons have a very good flavor, but they are too delicate to export. We found another seed that offers the high flavor and can withstand shipping, and next year we expect to be able to offer limited samples to key customers, but no commercial volumes yet."

Carlos Prado, owner of Itaueira Farms, said that while the cost of production is higher for the premium melons he offers, his biggest concern is flavor.

"We don't sell food - we sell flavor," he said. "We want to sell a product that I want on my own table."

Itaueira Farms has seen remarkable growth since 1999, when it first offered melons grown on about 20 acres. Today, it farms approximately 6,200 acres of melons, with the large majority — 90 percent — of product being consumed in Brazil. The remaining 10 percent is divided among Europe (6 percent) and the United States and Canada (4 percent combined).

Lima added that the new varieties already have U.S. Department of Agriculture clearance by virtue of the fact that they are grown in an area of Brazil deemed free of fruit flies.

Regarding food safety, Lima said Itaueira Farms has been in compliance with all Food & Drug Administration protocols for years, and has long met the strict GlobalGAP standards required in the European markets.

Additionally, each melon is labeled with traceability information, adding an extra layer of confidence in the quality and safety of the products.

At the PMA Fresh Summit, Itaueira was offering samples of the melons to visitors at the booth. Lima said sampling remains a key strategy to increasing sales of the melons, which carry a premium price at retail.

"The melons cost more at retail, but once people try them, they realize they are worth the price," he said. "We encourage our retail customers to conduct sampling programs at their stores. When they do, they see a lot of repeat customers and the sales go up."

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