Seed World

A Refreshing New Direction for the Watermelon

Hazera's Mark van der Zouwen.
Hazera’s Mark van der Zouwen.

Mini watermelons are gaining popularity, but the large watermelon varieties will continue to have a following.
“The watermelon market is undergoing a very dynamic trend,” says Mark van der Zouwen, cucurbits global product manager at Hazera. Cucurbits are a plant family, sometimes called the gourd family, consisting of around a hundred genera, the most important of which are squash, pumpkin, zucchini, and some gourds. “The seedless mini watermelon is gaining market share quickly, in many markets.”
Hazera recently hosted an open house in the south of Israel, where growers were invited to see new varieties and provide their feedback. One of the new varieties demonstrated was Ocelot, a seedless mini watermelon around 4.4 lbs., which displays a nice tiger-patterned outer layer, combined with crispy and tasty flesh.
“This variety has been introduced successfully this year, at an international scale; we sell the seeds to growers in the U.S., but also in Mexico and Central America, who then provide the fruits to the U.S. market,” says Van der Zouwen. European growers are also starting to produce this variety.
The seedless mini watermelon market has doubled in the past decade. The reasons for this success are varied: smaller households, a trend towards more economical consumption, mini watermelons are lighter, easier to carry and have a more consistent quality, the wish to reduce waste (as sometimes larger fruits remain uneaten and are discarded). This trend will continue and is expanding towards Europe as well.
But don’t expect the large watermelons to disappear soon. Even in countries where market share for mini watermelons has increased, like the U.S. and Northern Europe, in the summertime when people host family picnics and barbeques, the large watermelon is a popular dessert choice.
Mark van der Zouwen and his colleague, Hazera’s regional product manager Yoav Levy, work together to develop the new directions for watermelons. A significant boost comes from the rapidly growing fresh cut industry, where waste is a very important point of attention, so this industry is demanding watermelons with a thin but firm rind and flesh consistency, featuring excellent qualities throughout the fruit.
Hazera is growing. The company’s customers are the growers, but often buyers and retailers have direct channels of communication with the company, and Hazera helps to bridge the gap between grower and retailer. “We make sure to surround our customers, and supply chain contacts, with a highly skilled team of breeding, product development, sales, and product management experts, to translate their needs into the next generation of watermelons,” says van der Zouwen.