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Cantaloupes: where we've been; where we're going

Attention fruit lovers!

Tell me if you’ve been here before: You’re doing your shopping, it’s sloppy outside because it’s March and you're longing for a sweet, juicy, ripe piece of fruit. You got your fill of strawberries over Valentine’s Day and you’ve been eating oranges since December. You want something different. You want a cantaloupe!

Produce marketers across the continent hear your pleas, but trying to find that right springtime week to satisfy the collective urge for cantaloupes can be a tricky business.

The chart below shows weekly average FOB costs for 9-count Cantaloupes between weeks 10 and 21 over the last five years.

Not really for the most skittish amongst us, is it? Over this time period you can see a nearly 250 percent spread between the high and low costs. Some years' costs start high and drop, other years they start low and rise. Then there are the years where costs are stable throughout most of the spring. Trying to pinpoint the right timeframe to offer this magnificent, family-sized treat is not as simple as one would hope. Luckily, for those who are looking to save a buck or two on cantaloupes, the last five years have seen a gradual decline in costs.

In fact, cantaloupes have deflated approximately seven percent during this 12-week period since 2014. This deflation is hard to recognize in the chart above, but if we look at just the trendline—the line drawn through the centre of a line graph that shows the general direction of the data—we can see the gentle slope in a downward direction.

This is where things get interesting; after looking at the five-year cost trend and overlaying the deflation on top of the seasonal variability that we saw in the first chart, we can begin to make sense of the cantaloupe market. It’s even possible to predict future costs for the 2019 spring season. A word of caution though: Predicting fruit costs in the midst of chaos is not for the fainthearted. Sometimes further chaos is the best prediction. Nevertheless, here we go. The chart below shows the 2019 projected costs for weeks 10 through 21.

The chart shows stable costs throughout March—above $11 FOB. Starting in April, costs will steadily decline, finally bottoming out at the end May and dipping below $9 FOB. According to this projection, the longer you wait to make a big purchase, the greater the reward of lower costs. But if you want to get a beat on the market, this model shows costs dipping below $10 for the first time during week 18.

Just remember to use these projections cautiously, they should be only a part of a larger information-gathering regimen. Perhaps the most fun part, but still just a part.


Mike Mauti is the Managing Partner and Senior Vice President of Execulytics, a consulting firm catering to produce suppliers and independent retailers. With over two decades navigating the Canadian retail scene as a buyer, merchant, and operator, he certainly qualifies as an expert. And with much of that time spent in produce, he has the goods to deliver on his promise to bridge the gap between growers and retailers. Check out www.execulytics.ca to learn more about the company’s signature products: The Produce Almanac, The Retail 101 Seminar and Canadian Intelligence Services.