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Growing the Pink Ribbon Watermelon Supply Chain

Pink Ribbon Watermelon

I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing 4th of July. Did you know that the 4th of July is one of the top holidays for watermelon in the U.S.? In fact, July is National Watermelon Month. Sliced on platters, cubed in salads, or even grilled, watermelon was probably on thousands of American picnic tables yesterday. But do you know how growers and distributors overcome logistical hurdles in order to get watermelon to stores? For all you supply chain gurus, here is a tangible example of the importance of the supply chain matching up with consumer demand.

What makes the watermelon supply chain challenging? Just for starters, watermelons are bulky and awkward to transport unless they are loaded in bins. And there are over 200 watermelon varieties that range from conventional to seedless to the mini or personal varieties. But I think diverse growing locations and seasonal variation test the supply chain the most.

While watermelon is available year round from Mexico, in the U.S. the fruit is grown in 44 states. It is a nomadic crop with harvest times varying by location. Typically, the first U.S. watermelons of the season come from Florida and Texas in April. As the season progresses, the harvest moves in waves from Georgia and Arizona to California, Arkansas, and South Carolina, and then through Midwestern and Northern climates. With harvest times all over the map (literally!) from April to September, retailers can find it tricky to keep up with the migrating supply.

Retailers need to time deliveries to match up with the watermelon promotions for the top holidays—Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day. It’s important that stores have enough product when the weather gets hot and shoppers want to buy watermelon. And if these supply chain challenges weren’t enough, retailers also care about consumer brand recognition and attention-grabbing marketing materials. Retailers consistently ask for comprehensive programs that address logistics (how do we get the quality fruit we need) and marketing aspects (how can we appeal to consumers and capture their attention).

So what is the solution?

To help retailers find a consistent, year round supply of watermelons, we work closely with Timco Worldwide, a C.H. Robinson company, and a multitude of other watermelon growers across the country to deliver the best product to stores.

To address the marketing support piece, our team created the Pink Ribbon Watermelon program in 2007. Because Watermelon is the lycopene leader in fresh produce—with four times the amount found in tomatoes—and lycopene is an ingredient linked to reducing the risk of certain cancers, we used the link to build the program’s foundation. The cause marketing component is appealing to both retailers and shoppers.

Retailers get the added benefit of reaching consumers in a very positive way. When retailers participate in the Pink Ribbon Watermelon program, C.H. Robinson donates $2.00 for every bin sold to breast cancer charities on behalf of retailers and their consumers. To date, the program has raised over $480,000 to non-profit organizations focused on breast cancer research and prevention throughout the United States and Canada..

To me, this is a great example of how true supply chain value extends from the watermelon fields all the way to the shoppers that love to buy them.

I wish you all a summer filled with family, friends, and, of course, refreshingly sweet watermelon.