or me, like many others, my memories of the arrival of spring and summer are inextricably tied with the rich flavors of a ripe melon. No matter how old I become, the warm weather never fails to pull me back into those lazy afternoons lying in the grass, the hum of the sprinklers in the background, and a juicy melon in hand. Little did I think back then about what it took to bring that melon to my mother’s shopping cart.
That’s where Dulcinea Farms comes onto the scene. The company tasked with delivering the premium melons so intricately woven into those fond memories takes that responsibility seriously. As the company embarks on a new strategic era of growth just three years after Pacific Trellis acquired Dulcinea Farms in the 2014 headline-grabbing deal, General Manager Josh Leichter is confident that the company has barely began to unveil its potential for innovation in the melon category.
“Dulcinea has been a category leader and well-respected brand for a number of years, beginning with the introduction of the PureHeart® mini seedless watermelon,” Josh explains to me as I delve deeper into what spurred one of the more notable acquisitions in the produce industry in recent years. “Pacific Trellis saw an opportunity to leverage and build on that brand while executing additional operating efficiencies on the back-end of the business. We feel that we have only scratched the surface in terms of capitalizing on strengths both companies brought to the table. You will be seeing more from us as we move through 2017 and beyond.”
From studying as an Ag Business major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a summer internship with Turlock-based grower ATB Packing, to his decade-long stint at Oppy and valiant return to the west coast with Dulcinea—Josh knows melons. In fact, that’s one of the main points that drew him to the company, and what keeps him excited about his job every day.
“It’s really an honor to sell the Dulcinea brand,” Josh explains. “Working with the category leader for mini watermelons always keeps me on my toes. Melons are a high volume item, so partnering with retailers to prepare big promotions, especially in the spring and summer months, is very rewarding.”
Given his tenure in produce, Josh’s enthusiasm when he says 2017 is just the beginning of what the newly-combined company is bringing to the table is contagious. From a major push in organics, expanding upon its proprietary varieties, and more, Dulcinea will have its hands full providing the spring and summertime melons that consumers already have begun to ask for by name.
Let’s start with organics. Josh tells me that this upcoming May, the company will harvest its largest production of Organic PureHeart® watermelons out of Sonora, Mexico. In response to a consistently growing demand for organic produce, Dulcinea has been continually bumping up its acreage for Organic PureHeart® mini seedless watermelons.
This year the company will also be ramping up production for its captivating SunnyGold® yellow flesh watermelons, starting with production in northern Mexico this spring.
“SunnyGold® yellow flesh watermelons are an excellent way to bring incremental sales to the melon category,” Josh tells me of the strikingly beautiful fruit. “There are people who have never seen a yellow flesh watermelon before, so for 2017, we are increasing visibility by rolling out new bin graphics. The bins show very clearly the distinct and unique yellow flesh of the melons. We will also be increasing our presence on various social media platforms which should help get the word out.”
The upcoming season will also mark the return of one of the company’s most coveted products—Tuscan Style® cantaloupe. With the consumer landscape demanding more unique and proprietary cantaloupe varieties, retailers will be promoting Dulcinea Tuscans for their high-quality eating experience, high brix, and consistent sweet flavor.
And really, above all the other draws that pull in both retailers and consumers alike, it’s that consistent flavor and high-quality eating experience that keeps Dulcinea melon fans coming back for more. When you can deliver on a promise to the consumer that the brand they have grown to love will always be there when they need, that’s when customer loyalty goes from just a nice saying to a profitable investment in the company, as well as a meaningful interaction with the consumer.
“The main benefit of our varieties is the consistently high eating experience; not only on our Tuscan Style® cantaloupe, but also on our PureHeart® mini watermelons and other melons we produce. When a consumer buys a melon and has a good eating experience, they associate that with the Dulcinea brand, and will repeat that purchase throughout the season,” Josh clarifies. “Our goal, as always, is to provide our customers and the end consumer with high volumes of consistently outstanding tasting fruit. When we do that, the consumer begins to ask for the Dulcinea brand by name.”
Of course, a little bit of retail support never hurt to pump up sales either. Dulcinea offers a variety of POS materials, from high graphic premium black bins and cartons which retailers utilize to display melons in store, to header cards, umbrellas, and other in-store materials to feature the Dulcinea logo and product information.
Since the integration of the Dulcinea Farms and Pacific Trellis’ business in 2014, the company has been making great strides
to further cement itself as the preferred spring and summer
“It has been a journey that has opened a lot of new opportunities on both sides,” Josh shares about his experience with the acquisition. “Each company brought different relationships with customers and growers alike. We have found many synergies through bringing those relationships under one company.”
Three years later, the growth in the company continues to flourish. In an effort to bolster selling power out of its Los Angeles and Fresno, California offices, Dulcinea has recently added three new sales team members and a new Marketing Manager. Rod Rosales has taken the role of Senior Sales & Business Development in Fresno, while Ping Lu and Roy Roderick have joined the Los Angeles Sales team. Micki Dirtzu will be leading marketing efforts for the company out of the Los Angeles office, and Sheena Sullivan Lombardo was recently promoted to the Marketing team. This is on top of beefing up the company’s field operations team in the previous year.
With a deep commitment to continue building both the Pacific Trellis and Dulcinea Farms businesses, the company has just began to uncover the innovation and growth possible at the proverbial table. Keep your eyes peeled for this powerhouse on the move in 2017 and beyond.