IDEAL Melons Have Higher Aromatics, Sugars, and Flesh Consistency and Texture in U.C. Davis Study

Expert Insights
IDEAL Melons by Syngenta Vegetable Seeds

For so long we’ve settled on melons that have strong shelf lives but are short on flavor; as a result, consumer demand has taken a hit. Today there’s IDEAL Melons, a disruptive game changer that recently launched in the Americas market.

A new concept of long-shelf-life (LSL) cantaloupe melons, IDEAL Melons brings year-round production of consistent and flavorful melons that consumers can rely on and love. In addition, select IDEAL Melon varieties feature an innovative patent-pending Harvest Indicator Trait. The trait uses a visual cue to signal readiness across the entire value chain. The rind changes color from fresh green to golden straw, indicating the IDEAL time to harvest, and continues to change post-harvest, eliminating the guesswork. Giving everyone the confidence, they are acting at the IDEAL time. Ensuring the IDEAL taste and musky aroma consumers crave means more satisfied, repeat, and loyal customers.

Putting Data Where Our Mouth Is.

Syngenta Vegetable Seeds partnered with University of California-Davis to compare IDEAL Melons against traditional LSL varieties. It was a four-trial experiment where UC Davis received (throughout the course of a year) traditional LSL varieties (checks) and IDEAL Melons with the Harvest Indicator Trait from different growing areas (Guatemala, Yuma Desert, San Joaquin Valley and Woodland, CA). Each melon underwent destructive and non-destructive evaluations, measuring flesh firmness, fruit juiciness, external and internal color, volatile organic compounds, shelf-life, etc. A consumer panel evaluation was also conducted.

According to the U.C. Davis evaluation study, IDEAL Melons had:

• Significantly more volatile organic compounds (aroma)

• Significantly higher and consistent sugars (Brix)

• Higher amounts of the dark orange flesh color (abundance of carotenoids)

• More consistent flesh texture (firmness)

The consumer panel study showed that when compared to IDEAL Melons, the taste of standard LSL melons was disliked significantly more, leading to unsatisfied consumers

Q&A with Bárbara Blanco-Ulate, Associate Professor of the Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis.

What did you hope to discover in the study?

I wanted to see if you find more uniformity or consistency when you use the harvest indicator. Melons and fruit are not a manufactured product in which you expect consistency. But with fruit consistency isn’t expected because they are grown differently (the amount of water, the soil, the environment in general, etc.) All these different aspects will influence that moment in which that melon will arrive in consumer hands. Having consistency is most important, so a person will experience melons always in the same way. And that's why we focused on these aspects.

What surprised you the most?

The color. The color at time of harvest is improved, of course that's why you have a harvest indicator, but they [melons] continued to change color in storage. They continued to get more golden straw. To me, that’s more desirable to see a fruit that looks more golden straw. I was not expecting that once detached [from the vine] the fruit would continue to change so much color and it did.

What were the highlights of the study surrounding the consumer panel – as far as purchase of intent?

People buy with their eyes and having a melon that differentiates how it [the rind] looks is quite important. If you have a melon that is green, it seems it is unripe and generally people don't like unripe melons because they are associated with something that is not flavorful. When we did this intent of purchase study, we included two classes of melons (three IDEAL Melon compared to three traditional LSL) next to each other with the same lighting. And we asked our panel of about 140 people which melon they would buy if they were the same price. We found that most of the people prefer those [melons] that look more golden straw or more colorful with less green. And the reason why is because they considered it to be more ripe, and in most cases they liked the color better than if they were green.

Brix (TSS) was an important measurement in the study. What were the results and conclusions we could assess from the evaluation?

In most of the cases the IDEAL Melons have more total soluble solids of Brix, and they are associated with sweetness. Sweetness is the most important parameter in terms of taste. And that together with aroma is what makes flavor, but if the melon is not sweet it’s usually not as well received in the case of these types of cantaloupes. Most of the IDEAL Melons had higher Brix and not just higher but consistently higher. We found some commercial LSL varieties to be as high [in Brix] as IDEAL Melons but they were all over the place (inconsistent). There were some other commercial LSL varieties with very low Brix. The IDEAL Melons in that specific parameter, were consistently higher.

How do you think this study matters in the overall goal of increasing melon consumption?

Consumers have been disappointed in the past years on eating melons that have extended shelf life, but don't have all the characteristics they expect on taste and flavor. One of the reasons is not necessarily because the varieties are low quality. It’s because they're harvested at the wrong time. Harvesting time is a strong factor influencing fruit quality at harvest and at consumption.

This study matters because we have a trait that delivers something to the consumer, which is consistency, and it helps the growers and the industry in general. It helps the growers to pick at the right time without having to guess every time they go or have to do multiple harvests of the same product. It’s [trait] a benefit to the shipping or distribution industry because they can have a better idea of how long they [melons] will last, and then for the consumer because they will find a product that is more consistently ripe.