Dolce Passione: the “Made in Italy” black rind watermelon Consortium is born

Dolce Passione

Rimini (5 May 2023) – It made its debut only a year ago at Macfrut, and then appeared at the International Fruit and Vegetable Fair in a new guise. In fact, the Dolce Passione Consortium was born for the production and promotion of a black rind watermelon created as part of a project entirely “Made in Italy”. This fruit is the result of over 7 years of study and research that have, after over 30 years, brought back a type of product that is highly appreciated by consumers.

Dolce Passione was developed through Italian genetics as part of a project created thanks to a collaboration involving Lamboseeds (Sant’Agata Bolognese), a company engaged in experimentation and advanced research, working alongside companies from the world of production and trade, namely, Alma Seges (Eboli, Salerno), Ortofrutta Castello (Stanghella, Padua), and Lorenzini Naturamica (Sermide, Mantua). The aim is to promote and advance this seedless black rind watermelon that made its debut on the market last year with excellent results, by forming a Consortium that can enable further progress.

Heading the consortium as President is Roberto Castello, while Luciano Trentini is the Director.

“After the launch of the Dolce Passion brand last year, at Macfrut we are presenting a further step in the production and marketing of an all-Italian delicacy – stated the President, Roberto Castello – Thanks to the union of four companies (Lamboseeds, Alma Seges, Ortofrutta Castello and Lorenzini Naturamica) we have created the Dolce Passione watermelon production consortium which will enable us to continue the spread of this product in Italy and further expand its market. This is an important challenge that rewards a product that enhances the Made in Italy brand, and which is attractive, flavoursome, healthy and, above all, Italian”.

 

“We have gone from the original growing area of 60 hectares to the current 200. This will lead to tripling production in the space of just one year. Dolce Passione’s success can be largely explained by its organoleptic and physical characteristics – explains Director Luciano Trentini – A watermelon that recalls times past; it is small and round hence easily transportable and easily consumed yet its unique characteristics of sweetness, crunchiness, colour, and flavour are forward-looking. The absence of seeds is an added value that is increasingly welcomed by consumers, as is its thin rind avoids bulky waste.” 

“This product’s added value – underlines Sandro Colombi of Lamboseeds – is the fully Italian collaboration. We started ten years ago by studying seeds and genetics and in the last three years, having found what we considered the best result, a variety called Giotto, we tested it on the market and the response from consumers was very positive. This is where the real challenge of Dolce Passion began in 2022. A product that authentically interprets the territory where it was born while importantly being able to expand the market as well”.

New generation genetics: a bright rind and crunchy flesh

The main variety produced by these advanced genetics is “Giotto”, selected in Italy and cultivated for the domestic market and Northern Europe and one of the most important innovations in this species. It has a very thin, fine rind that is bright and uniform black and compact and crispy red flesh with a characteristic sugary flavour (above 12 degrees Brix) and the absence of seeds means it is especially rich in fibres. If grown at high temperatures, the flavour becomes even sweeter. It forms part of the “midi” watermelon segment, with an average weight of around 4-6 kg. It is, therefore, a very manageable watermelon for consumers.

Success in numbers

In 2022, the first year of the commercial “trial”, which involved a growing area of 60 hectares for a total marketed production of 3,200 tonnes, Dolce Passione aroused the interest and appreciation of producers and consumers. It was this success, confirmed by the data, that prompted the producers to promote the creation of the Promotion Consortium that was set up in March. The consortium aims to promote sales and consumption through a targeted marketing strategy, both in Italy and in Europe, and enhance the production of this watermelon which is grown in the areas of Italy most suited to the cultivation of the product.

2023 goals: triple the production area

The consortium estimates a production of 8,500/9000 tonnes for the current year, with a growing area of approximately 200 hectares, i.e., more than triple that of 2022. To lengthen the watermelon marketing period, cultivation will be in greenhouses and open field spread over different areas in Italy: 50% in the North, 30% in the South and 20% in the Centre, with an estimated production, calculated on 95% of the crop, of 8,500 tonnes, equal to 1.5% of total Italian production.

Commercial distribution: large-scale retailers and e-commerce

The main commercial outlets are large-scale retailers, the preferred channel of the consortium’s producers. But the consortium’s members are also looking with interest at e-commerce which, in recent years and following the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, has seen an increase in sales of fruit and vegetables online. Given that the large-scale retailers have grasped the importance of the “consumer service” factor, which is crucial for an increase in consumption, e-commerce has proven to be a rapidly expanding marketing segment with significant percentages of growth.

The watermelon market in Italy

Dolce Passione has the peculiarity of being unique as it is an all-Italian product. It is present in a market which saw the production of 509,228 tonnes of watermelons in Italy in 2022. This was a reduction on previous years due to the hailstorms which predominantly hit certain areas of Northern Italy. The planted area covered 10,108 hectares.

The main growing regions are 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). As regards the production areas, Lazio stands out, 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, with an average of four purchases a year.

The consumption of this product could expand in the future due to the rise in temperatures which leads in turn to an increase in consumption of this fruit that is linked to climate, especially in summer. Moreover, watermelons are preferred for their low-calorie content and the high presence of water in the flesh which means it is both thirst-quenching and rich in lycopene, an antioxidant with health benefits.

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