Dolce Passione, the fully ‘made in Italy’ watermelon with a black rind: 200 hectares, 10,000 tonnes of product, a good marketing campaign. The supply chain, from field to fork, was presented at the Lorenzini Naturamica farm in Sermide (Mn)

Sermide – MN (18 July 2023) – “Two hundred hectares distributed across the entire Italian peninsula with a yield of around 10,000 tonnes amounts to a decidedly satisfactory commercial campaign”. This was the snapshot given by the Director of the Consortium, Luciano Trentini of ‘Dolce Passione’, the black rind watermelon entirely ‘made in Italy’ when speaking at the event hosted at the Lorenzini Naturamica farm in Sermide.

Around twenty journalists from the trade and food sectors were present for the presentation of the ‘Dolce Passione’ supply chain, from field to fork. The event terminated with a menu prepared by chef Mauro Spadoni entirely based around the black rind watermelon.

‘Dolce Passione’ is the only black rind watermelon exclusively made in Italy. It was born from a gamble brought four companies to collaborate and form a Consortium: Lamboseeds (Sant’Agata Bolognese) specialized in advanced research, together with players from the sectors of production and sales, Alma Seges (Eboli, Salerno), Ortofrutta Castello (Stanghella, Padua), and Lorenzini Naturamica (Sermide, Mantua).

Our supply chain project, from the field to the sales outlet, focuses on a superior quality product and is thus giving us great satisfaction in the market”, explained the President of the ‘Dolce Passione’ Consortium, Roberto Castello.

The result of seven years of study and research, the peculiarity of Dolce Passione watermelons is the new-generation genetics represented by the Giotto variety, one of the most important innovations in this species in recent times. It has a very fine rind that is bright and uniform black and compact and crunchy red flesh with a strong sugary flavour (above 12-13 degrees Brix). It is rich in fibre thanks also to the absence of seeds. The current high temperatures make its taste even sweeter. It forms part of the “midi” watermelon segment, with an average weight of around 4-5 kg. It is, therefore, a very manageable watermelon for consumers.

Pietro Viviani and Cristiano Lorenzini of Lorenzini Naturamica provided first-hand experience of the supply chain of the watermelon produced by their Mantuan company with a visit first to the 23-hectare field where 92,000 plants are grown (the Lorenzinis have 60 hectares dedicated to the watermelon). The visit continued through the processing, selection, and packaging warehouse where they presented the innovative product traceability system that uses a laser beam to mark each watermelon.

We will invest further in this watermelon – explained Stefano Rossi, sales director of Lorenzini Naturamica – We have great faith in this product as confirmed by our membership of the Consortium. We are a fourth-generation company that has environmental sustainability as its cornerstone as can be seen from our investments, from the 1 gigabyte photovoltaic system to the recovery of biomass and the product tracking system. This is the future of agriculture”.

This project was born as a response to consumer demand – specified Carmine Alfano, sales director of Alma Seges – The market was looking for an innovative, traceable, high-quality product fully produced in Italy, so that is what we have created”.

But the project is looking to wider horizons, to the extent that Dolce Passione is expanding to other varieties of watermelon. “We are only in the trial phase, but we are planning to produce watermelons with different flesh colours following the success that Lamboseeds has achieved with the salad tomato. It is a new challenge that we are very happy to take up, once again in the name of quality”, commented Sandro Colombi of Lamboseeds.

The day ended with a full-course meal created by chef Mauro Spadoni that was based on the Dolce Passione watermelon, from appetizer to dessert. Four dishes were presented: Caprese salad with watermelon, buffalo mozzarella, marinated sweet onion and mint; Risotto (Vialone Nano), watermelon and Russiola creamed with Gorgonzola cheese; Deconstructed beef burger with rosemary-marinated watermelon and honey-flavoured mustard sauce; Cube of watermelon in a brown-sugar syrup with lime and mint.

 

Dolce Passione in 2023

At its debut in 2022, in the first year of its marketing trial, the watermelon was grown over an area of 60 hectares for a total marketed production of 3,200 tonnes. For the current year, the consortium estimates a production of 8,500/9,000 tonnes, with a planted area of approximately 200 hectares, i.e., more than triple that of 2022. To extend the watermelon’s marketing period, production will be in both greenhouse and open field and spread to varying degrees over the different areas of Italy: 50% in the North, 30% in the South and 20% in the Centre, with an estimated production, calculated on 95% of the crops, of 8,500 tonnes, equal to 1.5% of total Italian production. To extend the marketing period, part of the production is destined for second harvest crops.

The main sales channels are that of the large-scale retailers, which are the main buyers for the growers participating in the Consortium. However, there is also interest in the opportunities of e-commerce that in recent years, due also to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, has developed with an increase in sales of fruit and vegetables online.

 

The watermelon market in Italy

Dolce Passione can be considered unique as it is entirely ‘made in Italy’. It is now part of a watermelon market in Italy with a production amounting to 509,228 tonnes in 2022, a reduction compared to previous years due to the hailstorms that predominantly hit areas of Northern Italy. The planted area was 10,108 hectares.

Currently, the availability of watermelons remains limited due to a seasonal trend that has penalized production across almost all of Italy. The negative effects of low temperatures were followed by heavy rains in May, effectively limiting and delaying production. However, the members of the Dolce Passione Consortium are very satisfied with the productive and qualitative performances of the Giotto variety, which they are successfully introducing into the commercial circuit.

In 2022, the main growing regions for watermelon in Italy were Lazio (103,950 tonnes), Puglia (85,271), Campania (80,612), Lombardy (78,228), Emilia Romagna (45,021), Sardinia (37,500), Sicily (29,505), Veneto (17,050) and Basilicata (8,715). Lazio stands out for production areas, with 1,940 hectares, followed by Puglia (1,645), Sicily (1,443), Lombardy (1,281), Campania (1,103), Emilia Romagna (870), Sardinia (728), Veneto (279) and Basilicata (221). (Source: Istat).

Around 15 million Italian families regularly buy watermelons, for an average of four purchases a year.

The consumption of this product could expand in the future due also to the increase in temperatures that in turn influence an increase in consumption of watermelons which are considered a typical summer fruit – concludes the director Luciano Trentini – Not only that, watermelons are a preferred choice given the high water content of the flesh which means it is thirst-quenching. Moreover, it is low in calories and rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that benefits health”.

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