Designer Cantaloupe? Count us in!

Friday, September 8, 2017
By: Kris Norwood,

A recent Bloomberg article hailed the introduction of Walmart’s new “designer” cantaloupe – the Sweet Spark. Since this novel fruit was bred by Bayer, we’ve got the background scoop.

Matt Umbrella

Walmart noted in the Bloomberg article that it typically sells 10 times more cantaloupes in June, when it can buy from U.S. farms, than it does in December when melons are bred to be strong enough to withstand the approximately 3,000-mile trip from warmer southern climates.

“They look good but taste like a piece of wood,” notes Shawn Baldwin, Walmart Stores Inc.’s senior vice president for produce and global food sourcing.

“Sweet Spark” To the Rescue

To find a better cantaloupe, Walmart considered more than 100 varieties of seeds. Walmart employees graded the cantaloupes for attributes like flavor, texture, and aroma.

Our cantaloupe – re-named Sweet Spark by Walmart employees – came out on top. Sweet Spark was available in 200 U.S. Walmart stores this past winter, with a larger roll-out planned for later this year.

A New Approach

Matt Deceault
Matt Deceault of Bayer’s Vegetable Seeds Produce Chain
Matt Deceault, Bayer’s Vegetable Seeds Produce Chain, notes that it’s almost two years exactly to the date when he met with Walmart to begin a relationship and to give them an idea of what Bayer Vegetable Seeds could do for them.

Typically, Bayer works with growers to ensure their seeds meet key agronomic requirements for where and how they are grown. So, thinking about a melon from the consumer’s viewpoint was a new approach.

“It involved us going out and testing a lot of different varieties in the field with the growers, taking a deep dive into our portfolio, looking at genetics from the standpoint of delivering flavor, flavor, flavor on shelf and not necessarily the agronomic benefits 100 percent,” Matt explains. “So, it was a complete shift in the priorities.”

“Eventually we locked in on a variety that had performed heads and shoulders above any of the other varietals within Walmart’s consumer testing panels, and then we put

it through a long rigorous set of more consumer tasting panels for about a year, and through agronomics as well,” Matt says. “We found that it worked out of Central America, and it happened that Walmart couldn’t obviously obtain high-quality, high-flavor melons at that time [winter] out of Central America, so it was a real nice natural fit.”

Matt 4 Melon Crates

More Sweet Spark Coming Soon

During winter 2016, Bayer produced Sweet Spark cantaloupe seeds and then partnered with Walmart to promote with in-store demos at stores drawing from those distribution centers.

Sweet Spark will be available December through April in many Walmart stores in the United States.

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