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ORLANDO, FL — Brazilian melon producer Itaueira Farms is using feedback it garnered at the recent Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition to help plot its course for future product releases.

Rodrigo Lima, president of Crown International USA Inc., the Key Biscayne, FL-based marketing arm for Itaueira Farms, said that the PMA Fresh Summit, held here Oct. 15-18, was a good opportunity to expose the trade to its "REI" brand Canary melons and other melon varieties it had available for sampling during the expo.

“We had very good traffic on the floor,” he said, adding that at the 2009 Fresh Summit in Anaheim, CA, Itaueira went through 3,500 cups of melon during sampling. This year, the firm started with 4,000 cups and had to run out midway through the second day for more cups. “We had a lot of visitors from the West Coast, Puerto Rico, Canada and even Asia.”

Mr. Lima said that shipments of Canary melons started arriving in New Jersey in late September averaging about four loads (2,000 boxes per load) every week.

Production is currently limited to the Ceara region in Brazil, but Mr. Lima said that he expects to soon receive U.S. Department of Agriculture approval to begin shipping from the Bahia region in northeastern Brazil, which would extend the season from February to June for Canary melons.

“While the volume is small, what we are really selling is quality,” he said. “In fact, we are looking for different partnerships that are used to handling high quality over volume.”

Mr. Lima said that at this year's PMA expo — the third year that Itaueira Farms has exhibited — the company also featured four different Galia melons and a mini seedless watermelon that are all currently in trials. Feedback from attendees was very valuable in deciding which varieties to propagate.

“When we gave samples of the Galia melons, almost everyone chose the same variety as their favorite,” he said. “So that was very valuable for us.”

All future releases will feature melons marketed under the “REI” brand and merchandised in netting, as is the case with the Canary melons.

“It is a way to build brand recognition with consumers and reinforce the high quality of the melons,” Mr. Lima said. “We are thinking long term and looking to promote the brand in the market. In fact, now we are not at the right price point in the U.S., but we are looking to build confidence with the consumer, and we realize that takes time.”

Mr. Lima said that visitors to the booth were also impressed with the involvement of the Prado family, which owns Itaueira Farms. In attendance were three generations of the family: Carlos Prado, president, his son Tom, his daughter Adriana and his grandchildren Marilena and Julia, who all work for the company.