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Patented Produce : Demand Grows for Designer Fruits, Vegetables

October 11, 1987|LESLIE BERKMAN | Times Staff Writer and

Steve Cleary, director of marketing and technical sales at Peto Seed in Saticoy, Calif., said Peto has a seedless watermelon variety that it intends to begin marketing aggressively in hopes of benefiting from the consumer interest generated by Sun World's product.

"They have really fueled the market for our product," Cleary said.

Ken Ludwig, marketing manager for Harris Moran Seed in Salinas, said his company is trying to develop a seedless watermelon with a deeper-red pulp than the pinkish-hued Sun Melon variety. "Multitudes of other companies are very close to developing seedless watermelons," said Ludwig, adding that Harris Moran intends to market its own variety by 1990.

Market Saturated

Abbott & Cobb owner Arthur Abbott, whose company also is developing a seedless melon, predicted that "within three or four years, at least 50% of the watermelon market will be in this triploid (seedless) type."

Which does not make Sun World happy. Rinella recalled that in the mid-1970s, Sun World was one of the first marketers in the country to heavily promote the Red Flame Seedless grape, the first red seedless variety ever developed.

While Red Flame Seedless grapes were originally highly profitable, Rinella said, the selling price plunged as other growers following in Sun World's footsteps planted thousands of acres of the fruit and saturated the market.

"We are trying to prevent that from happening with watermelons," Rinella said, by limiting the amount of seed sold to propagate the seedless watermelon and by controlling the subsequent marketing of the fruit.

Rinella said it is his hope that the annual harvest of seedless melons will never exceed 10% of total watermelon production, a level that he figures will guarantee "a price range that will be profitable for everyone."

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