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Charentais proves key to Soldive’s success

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French producer is experiencing considerable sales growth in international markets, thanks principally to demand for Charentais melons
France’s Soldive is primarily known for being a specialist in the production of yellow Charentais melons, producing around 33,000 tonnes of the fruit every year principally in regions of Languedoc and Poitou-Charentes, but also in Spain, Morocco and Senegal.
However, melons are far from Soldive’s only product as the company also produces a range of herb and salad products from its sites in Morocco and Spain, inclusing spinach, rocket, corander, mint, dil, parsley and basil.
In terms of Charentais production, Soldive on average markets 23,000 tonnes from its two French production sites, followed by 6,000 tonnes from Spain, 2,500 tonnes from Morocco and 1,000 tonnes from Senegal.
With Charentais, Soldive’s strategy is very much international in focus, with the company exporting not just across Europe, but also to Russia, Asia and the Middle East. “Soldive has a development approach to exports,” says a spokesperson for the company. “We want to increase our activity more and more and to promote our product in the international markets.” According to the company, Soldive’s focus for the Chanterais is on delivering a recognisably French type of melon, full of flavour, which projects the image of French quality at and international level. “Our strategy for the international markets is to offer high quality melon, which is not known in some countries,” said the spokesperson. “The taste of the yellow Charentais is not comparable to a cantaloupe or a green charentais. This is a melon sweet and aromatic.” By contrast, some 90% of Soldive’s winter salads and herbs are sold within the domestic French market, with the remainder exported to nearby countries including the UK, Germany and Switzerland.
As well as organising seasonal promotions, the company is also a regular at the Fruit Logistica trade fair in Berlin, Germany, where this year it will be present in Hall 21 – C01.
Soldive will also be using its appearance at the exhibition to highlight ‘Tradition’, a premium melon range created in 2010 which aims to select and pack extra quality fruit. In addition, the company is keen to emphasise that all its production sites are certified under the GlobalG.A.P. and LEAF quality standards.
Although it has its headquarters in the French town of Brie, Soldive says it is very much aware of its ethical responsibilities in the countries where it has a production presence, maintaining an active interest in charitable causes.
One example is Senegal, where the company recently took part in the of a school near St Louis where some of our melons are grown, while it has also worked to help the surrounding population with access to drinking water.
Working with Plan International, Soldive also helped provide funding for a surgical procedure in France for a young Senegalese girl, Aissata who suffers from rheumatic heart disease. Following a successful procedure, the firm said the young girl was able to return to Senegal in December last year.

 

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Melons with added value: Procomel’s new commitment

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Also known as the “Grandfather of Melons” because it has existed since 1928, Procomel saw total production in 2013 of 21,000 tonnes, 17% more than the previous year. For 2014, their objectives are “to continue to grow steadily and create a melon with added value,” says Juan Peñalver, the president of Procomel. The idea is to grow melons that give some extra characteristics such as vitamin C, beta-carotene and antioxidants. The company from Murcia, known for its piel de sapo melon, has also revealed its intention of cultivating new formats such as a mini piel de sapo melon.
Some time ago they developed their own Super Baby range, which “despite being more expensive to produce,” says Juan Peñalver, “has done very well, especially in Europe.” These are melons whose main characteristic is their taste, with 16-17 degrees Brix. Sugar Baby Gold is particularly noteworthy, their jewel in the crown with an orange flesh and crunchy texture. In 2013, this small range increased its sales by 20%, “and the forecast for 2014 is better,” said Procomel’s president. “The range does better in Europe than in Spain,” he adds, “but when Spanish consumers try it they take to it.”  A few years ago, Procomel decided to grow melons outside Spain to supply them year-round with the same quality and varieties. Senegal and Brazil were the chosen destinations, and they hope to expand this production, which accounts for 15% of the total. “We will continue to expand in Africa since the conditions are very good,” says Juan Peñalver. “There are fewer pests and it is logistically closer.”  Procomel has also opted for an organic range. In 2013 they sold them for the first time, producing 2,000 tons. As for exports, their goal is to strengthen their main market, Europe, and to try to make headway in the UAE, “although it will be hard because ours is a very typically Spanish melon,” says Juan Peñalver.  Another goal for 2014 is to begin a new adventure with their “Grandpa’s Corner.” The Murcian firm wants to introduce new quality products, not just melons as until now, in order to generate appreciation for new horticultural products that stand out for their organoleptic qualities.

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Fruca: 50,000 tons of melons and 110 million heads of lettuce

The Murcian group is maintaining its melon crop plans for the spring, with the aim of exporting about 50,000 tons. Meanwhile, it continues to diversify its supply, which includes 15,000 tons of Galia melons, 12,000 of the yellow variety, 7,000 Cantaloupe and 2,000 Charentais. Their piel de sapo melon exports come to just 2,000 tons of highly selected and half-size melons, between 1 and 2 kg per piece, and with more than 12º Brix. Their sole destination is Northern Europe. Their watermelon range is also one of the widest, with white seeded varieties, yellow and red fleshed, black seedless, mini blacks and whites, with or without seeds. “We supply the whole of Europe and Russia, with some going overseas to the UAE, for example,” explains their sales manager Jose Canovas. 
Their supply of lettuce comes to 110 million pieces from 2,500 ha of crops.