In summer, Spaniards now eat more watermelons (10.3 kg) than melons (8.4 kg). The never-ending heat wave enhances the trend.
According to different sources surveyed by Fruit Today euromagazine, “this reality started to appear several campaigns ago and currently this means an advantage of approximately 2 kilos per capita in favour of watermelons (10.33 kilos per year), compared to the 8.2 kilos of Piel de Sapo that every Spaniard eats on average.”
The watermelon market share continues to grow, gaining ground over melon due to quality; a quality that consumers qualify as uniformity in flavour, a parameter that is not met by melons.
This fruit has experienced a highly significant growth. According to data provided by Crisanto Ampuero, a Distribution Chain Specialist from Bayer, “between 2005 and 2017 watermelon consumption has increased by 4 kilos and in this campaign it could exceed 10 kg/person/year.”
The important organoleptic quality of the ‘red fruit’ has been one of the main keys to the increase in demand, which in just 12 years has gone from a production of 850 million kilos (2005) to 1,200 million in 2017.
What has prompted this situation?
Specialists point out two basic facts: the first, the price pressure that the large supermarket chains impose for both products, which they compare in value. “The production cost of a watermelon is half that of a melon, but the supermarket wants the same price for both of them. (As a general example it should be mentioned that producing a kilo of watermelon in Murcia costs 15 cents compared to the 32 cents for a kilo of melon. In Castilla La Mancha this price can be 9 cents for watermelon and 18 cents for melon).”
The second and no less important fact is that for many years the seed companies have concentrated on productivity, sacrificing flavour, or simply putting it in second place.
Today the sector has become aware of the situation and is trying to find solutions from the very start of the chain, that is to say, the seed companies. Last year it could already be seen in the different Melon and Watermelon demos that the goals for R&D in melon included recovering the ‘traditional flavour’ and even at the Interprofesional de Melón in Castilla-La Mancha they have spent time preparing a project on this aspect.
As a matter of fact, little by little, melons have been losing ground against watermelons even in traditionally ‘melon’ regions such as Castilla-La Mancha, where last year 700 hectares were ‘transferred’ from one crop to another and this trend is predicted to continue during this year.
Today, virtually 90% of the watermelons eaten are triploid (seedless) and according to typologies they are divided up as follows: 40% white seedless; 36% black seedless; 14% mini with micro-seeds; 8% mini seedless; 1% Crimson with seeds and 1% black with seeds.
In the case of melons, the Piel de Sapo continues to lead national consumption, but the increase in tourism has encouraged it to become more popular amongst foreign consumers and thanks to the genetics developed by companies such as RijkZwaan, with smaller-sized varieties that are ideal for export, this segment “is growing at a rate of 15-20% per year”, Diego Maestre, Melon and Watermelon Crop Coordinator states.
Bipolarity and specialisation
Regarding the marketing, there are two different aspects: on the one hand, there is an increase in large-sized fruit for sale ‘in halves’ (in Spain), and on the other hand, size has been reduced to obtain smaller fruit for the export market.
In this context, the seed companies are aiming their efforts at seeking differentiation with different coloured fruit (skin and flesh), solutions for industry and varieties with greater consistency for export…And the fact is that specialisation is the order of the day.