you’ve ever had the pleasure of wandering Tuscany’s lush landscapes and golden cityscapes, then you know there is much to feast on—with your eyes, mouth, and soul. And Pacific Trellis Fruit has worked to keep it that way for consumers, whether they reside within Italy’s borders or beyond, with one Italo-American summer variety under its Dulcinea brand.
“At Pacific Trellis, we have our own version of perfection,” Josh Leichter, General Manager, tells me. “Since we first debuted the Tuscan-Style® Cantaloupe, we’ve strived to offer the ultimate eating experience to our consumers.”
Because this is Pacific Trellis we’re talking about, the experience Josh describes includes all five of consumers’ senses. Specifically, the Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe is awash in varying green and orange hues and full of extra summer sweetness, making it just as much a sight to behold and a taste to remember as its namesake. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Tuscan-Style variety is made of the stuff that inspires many (including myself) to put pen to paper just upon hearing its name. In fact, following my conversation with Josh, I can’t help but wonder, had Michelangelo held the Tuscan-Style variety in his hand, would David have been sculpted sinking marble incisors into cantaloupe flesh? Had Botticelli dreamed of the summer fruit, would “The Birth of Cantaloupe” have survived centuries as the masterpiece hanging in museum halls? Without a doubt: Yes.
As a category leader in Italy for the last 30 years, and a Stateside leader for the last 15, the Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe has established its place in produce aisles as a must-have summer treat, thanks to the hard work of the Pacific Trellis team. In fact, between the months of May and October, produce aisles across North America are not of the ordinary. Such is the work of Pacific Trellis’ Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe.
"Our philosophy is to be in it for the long haul. We try to only launch brands with perspective and long-term potential."
- Josh Leichter, General Manager, Pacific Trellis
“When Syngenta, Dulcinea’s original parent company, first launched the Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe variety in Europe in 1991, which at the time was called Proteo, it performed particularly well in Tuscany and completely changed the market in Italy,” Josh explains. “Proteo was, and is still today, unique, both in performance and flavor. But we began to wonder how it would do in other markets, too. Because Tuscany is an area of Italy known for its food, wine quality, and beautiful hilly landscapes, Syngenta chose ‘Tuscan-Style’ as the brand name for the North American market.”
The Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe first made its way into North American markets in the early 2000s, where it has served as a summer mainstay ever since. But, like many greats, masters, and pros, the Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe didn’t just pop out of the dirt ready to go. Josh reveals that Syngenta, and now Pacific Trellis, develops its products around a desired taste and flavor concept. For Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe, Syngenta sought an aromatic base quite unique from competitors. As a result, the Italo-American variety—an industry term that describes melons with traditional U.S. Western shipper characteristics (netted, organ-fleshed, good shipping ability) and European Charentais characteristics (light to slight netting, unique flavor)—has an extra sweet flavor profile, a small cavity that offers up more edible fruit, and grooves on the outside that double as a ripeness indicator—talk about innovation.
“We have always identified consumer needs and wants, and then developed fruit to meet those needs,” Josh shares with me. “As a company that paved the way for the mini-seedless category, we have years of experience bringing proprietary fruit from seed to consumer. We’ve really worked to create the ‘Dulcinea Difference’—the taste, size, shape, and color that provides an eating experience unlike any other. We’ve also replaced the typical produce supply chain with a fully-integrated value chain. As a result, we have products, like the Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe, that are always ripe and ready-to-eat, and we have programs that we begin planning in the fall to control our volume and shipping.”
And the innovation doesn’t stop there. Pacific Trellis continues to trial new varieties and seeds throughout the year. As part of this process, the company observes important factors like growth, progression, time-to-harvest, resiliency to weather and diseases and, of course, a given for Pacific Trellis: taste! All of this culminates into standout varieties that still have an impact years after their initial launch.
“Our philosophy is to be in it for the long haul. We try to only launch products with perspective and long-term potential,” Josh explains. “As a part of our exclusive agreement with Syngenta, we only offer proprietary seed varieties, which gives us exclusivity and provides value to our customer.”
Pacific Trellis’ dedication to only bringing the highest-quality items to the market is yet another reason why the company has such a wide variety of products that have stood the test of time. That and, of course, a strong relationship with its grower and retail partners.
"When Dulcinea was acquired, we joined forces and bolstered our operations so that together we could offer an even greater eating experience, and one that represents the combined Pacific Trellis/Dulcinea brand well.”
- Josh Leichter
“As far as our grower and retail partners go, transparency and reliability are top of the list. Since we’ve partnered with many of them for so long, they know what our expectations are, and they know how to execute them. We continue to work with Syngenta, cultivating and trialing new varieties,” Josh says. “Even prior to Pacific Trellis’ acquisition of Dulcinea, the goals of both companies were very similar. In essence, we strive to provide a consistently superior taste experience that goes hand-in-hand with quality on every level.”
Pacific Trellis Fruit first began in 1999, with Dulcinea not too far behind. While Pacific Trellis tackled the stonefruit, pear, and table grape categories, Dulcinea took on the watermelon and cantaloupe categories. When the companies merged in 2014, after Pacific Trellis acquired Dulcinea, the two broadened their horizons, learning and excelling at the other’s crops—quickly becoming one company. Similar to how Tuscany is revered in Italy as a nation within a nation, Pacific Trellis’s acquisition of Dulcinea had the expected effect of two produce powerhouses coming together. Apart, the two were impressive, but together they are formidable.
“As I said before, we’ve always had our own version of perfection at Pacific Trellis and so has Dulcinea. When Dulcinea was acquired, we joined forces and bolstered our operations so that together we could offer an even greater eating experience, and one that represents the united Pacific Trellis/Dulcinea brand well,” Josh tells me.
With a combined total of over 40 years between them, Pacific Trellis and Dulcinea also heightened each other’s inventor spirit. To this day, Pacific Trellis continues to develop its brand with refreshing takes on old favorites and never-before-seen ideas presented as new varieties.
“In all of our categories—stonefruit, melons, grapes, and citrus—we are always looking for new and better-tasting varieties. But it’s not an easy task; there’s a lot of trial and error involved in finding varieties that will be as successful and beloved as the Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe,” Josh says. “We are currently working on expanding the Dulcinea brand into citrus and eventually premium grapes. But we do so knowing that we have to live up to our brand promise of ‘Fruit of Legendary Perfection’ to the consumer. One way this manifests itself is that we only sell the highest-spec fruit in these categories under the Dulcinea brand.”
And more fruit of legendary perfection is already here: The Full-Size Organic Dulcinea SugarDaddy® launched in May and a yellow mini-seedless variety continues its upswing.
“Right now, we’re working on expanding our yellow SunnyGold® minis to a wider audience. It has already gained distribution since its launch, but there are still a lot of consumers who have not seen this or regard it as more of a novelty,” Josh concludes.
Wherever Pacific Trellis charts its course and whichever classic categories it chooses to improve—cantaloupe, watermelon, citrus, you name it—one thing is for sure: Pacific Trellis has a knack for innovation, a knack that I’m sure makes its competitors green with envy.
A Tuscan traveler once wrote, “Life offers you a thousand chances…all you have to do is take one.” By one, I think she means one Tuscan-Style Cantaloupe or a similarly branded varietal from Pacific Trellis’s Dulcinea brand. The rest is, as they say, history.