Bayern business unit Vegetable Seeds, which is responsible for marketing the Nunhem's brand of seed products, is proposing a joint strategy to the food retail chain to offer brand new solutions to meet the needs of the "highly fragmented" melon and watermelon market.
The group has called upon every segment of the food retail chain to develop a joint strategy with the goal of boosting the European melon and watermelon market and highlighting the healthy nutritional properties of these fruits to make them attractive to every consumer segment.
The proposed collaboration is based on preliminary work to identify the main consumer trends in the fruit and vegetable segment followed by an analysis, involving the whole sector, to examine new business opportunities that target melons and watermelons.
During a seminar held on 29 June in Cartagena, attended by international sales and marketing experts, the importance of flavour was emphasised as a key selling point, even more than the price factor, along with people’s interest in a healthy diet.
The management of companies such as Ramafrut, Pozo Sur, Hessing and Zenalco (Auchan Group) all acknowledged that flavour must be the priority of any marketing strategy to boost the melon and watermelon market, as full customer satisfaction is the only way of encouraging repeat buyers and customer loyalty.
As well as flavour, the experts taking part in the seminar emphasised the need to promote the healthy properties of melons and watermelons and the benefits they bring to health, especially among children.
As a possible threat, they identified the risk that criticism of excessive consumption of foods full of industrial sugars may be to the detriment of certain fruits with a high natural sugar content. “The solution lies in a joint effort by every stakeholder involved to send the right message and raise consumers’ awareness about different types of sugar, so that fructose content will be interpreted as exactly what it is: a definite health benefit compared to other artificially-sweetened products,” explained Sjanny van Beekveld, the Business Manager of international consultancy firm IRI.
Market research on consumer trends has revealed, in general terms, that the European melon and watermelon market is showing slow growth, although slightly more dynamic in the segment of small watermelons of less than two kilograms.
“During the last few years, we have made huge efforts to improve the product, guarantee quality and increase customer loyalty, but we need to continue working as a group to bring new and more creative solutions to the market in which flavour is the number one asset,” noted Vicente Navarro, general manager of sales and marketing at Vegetable Seeds.
The study on market trends helped to establish the positive fact that new presentation formats at the point of sale are managing to overcome the seasonality factor and increase the consumption of melon and watermelons. In this respect, Nunhems believes that the development of new, more customised formats is fundamental to satisfy a fragmented market of people with very different consumer habits.
“It’s no longer enough to come up with a global solution to satisfy everyone; we’re living in a time when every type of consumer wants a different product and we need to work together to meet the objective of satisfying every consumer segment,” said Paco González, general manager of Iberia and global sales & marketing manager of melons and watermelons at Vegetable Seeds.
As part of the growing trend for people to graze on fruit snacks several times a day, the need has been identified to develop new varieties of melons and watermelons with a longer useful life and excellent internal quality. For example, this would help to increase consumption of the Piel de Sapo variety in the export market, as the ready-to-eat cut and peeled fruit segment is currently leaning towards the commercialisation of the Galia melon as it has a longer lifespan once processed and packaged.
“One option to win the battle against traditional snacks is to use the same marketing techniques as these major brands and reposition melons and watermelons in the supermarket,” said Hans Liekens, distribution manager at Hessing Supervers. “We need to position slices of ready-to-eat melon and watermelon right next to the chocolate bars and in the same price bracket so consumers will choose the fruit in what is always an impulse-buy experience."