Quality Improvements for Australian Melons

5 May 2023

A project to improve the eating quality and consumer demand of Australian melons is progressing well, with a series of grower meetings across Australia completed 3 May.

The project, led by Mark Loeffen of Delytics Ltd in collaboration with Melons Australia and the Australian melon industry, aims to support the industry to develop and adopt minimum maturity standards for Seedless Watermelon, Rockmelon and Honeydew. Once the project is completed these standards will help improve the eating quality and consumer demand of Australian melons. This strategic levy investment project, Quality Improvements in the Melon Supply Chain (VM21001), is supported by industry through the Hort Innovation Melon Fund.

Quality has been highlighted as an important issue for the melons industry since a 2019 Colmar Brunton report showed that melon acceptability at a retail level was approximately 64%. Improving the quality and consistency of melons available to consumers should increase consumer demand and the regularity of purchase, which is often aligned with increased prices, reduced wastage and an increase in value back to industry.

Johnathon Davey, Executive Officer of Melons Australia says, “We are working across the supply chain to develop and adopt an industry-agreed set of maturity standards that will ensure consistent quality for consumers. It's about improving the eating quality at the consumer point of sale for rockmelon, watermelon and honeydew. Once we get that right, we know naturally that demand and consumption will grow."

As part of the project, melon quality monitoring is being carried out at wholesale and retail points in the supply chain to benchmark the quality of the melons that are currently available to consumers. This benchmark will be used to validate the expected quality improvements once the maturity standards developed by this project are adopted. Wholesale and retail monitoring began in August 2022 and will continue until August 2023 to provide 12 full months of data.

Along with the maturity monitoring, two sets of consumer taste panels have been carried out by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) consumer and sensory team. Each set of taste panels were three weeks long, with one week each allocated to Seedless Watermelon, Rockmelon and Honeydew. The taste panels were carried out in October/November 2022 and March 2023.

Later in 2023, after Delytics has processed all the maturity monitoring and taste panel data, an industry event including representatives from the entire melon supply chain will be held to discuss and collectively agree on new maturity standards.

Project Manager, Mark Loeffen says, “We’ve received a lot of positive interest and feedback from industry about this project. The data coming in from the maturity monitoring is giving us a much clearer understanding of the quality that consumers are currently experiencing when they purchase Australian melons. These insights combined with the data provided by the taste panels will enable the industry to make well informed, evidence-based decisions about what maturity standards will work best for the whole supply chain.”

“The ultimate focus of this project is to help ensure that whenever a consumer goes to buy an Australian melon, they can be confident that it will taste good, no matter where they buy it from.”