Adrian Percy

How Sweet It Is!

Summer is a time when I look forward to fresh strawberries, tomatoes, corn on the cob and juicy melons. And those flavors we cherish are often not the same come winter time.

I recently read an article which clearly shows how consumer preferences can not only affect the work we do, but at the same time create opportunities for exciting new innovations and collaborations. This is proof that the general public’s opinion often drives the decisions companies make about product offerings and it certainly is something Bayer takes seriously.

Last month I was visiting our Bayer facility in West Sacramento, California, where I had the chance to sample some delicious watermelons grown from new proprietary seed varieties developed by our fruit and vegetable seeds business. Conducting a taste test of some of the spectacular produce created by our team at Bayer Vegetable Seeds may not be a typical work day for me, but it’s certainly one of the most enjoyable! While on site, I was able to check out the great work our vegetable seeds team is doing to deliver some of the innovative, high-quality foods that consumers and retailers are requesting.

During my visit, I was reminded about how breeding technologies are helping to meet the rising expectations of consumers who want tastier and firmer produce for their families. My Bayer colleagues entrusted me to handle a penetrometer to test the flesh firmness of our new super-firm watermelon varieties and a refractometer to determine its brix, or measure of sweetness. Of course, when I was done with all of the probing and measuring, I finally got to perform the ultimate taste test – it passed with flying colors!

Which brings me back to the article mentioned above: Walmart – America’s largest retailer – was not satisfied with the quality of cantaloupes it was offering its customers during the winter season. And so, the giant retailer asked experts at Bayer Vegetable Seeds to help develop a melon that would taste great and still be durable enough to survive the lengthy journey from farm to shelf. As a result of this collaboration, a new cantaloupe was born – Sweet Spark – which is 40 percent sweeter than Walmart’s current selection of winter melons.

Adrian Percy
Adrian Percy
Adrian Percy is the Global Head of Research and Development for Crop Science, a Division of Bayer.

And who wouldn’t want a sweet, refreshing melon with a thin rind and closed, small seed cavity, meaning more fruit to enjoy and less waste? That is exactly what The Hello Melon provides consumers. Exclusively available this season at Raley’s, a supermarket chain in California and Nevada, this premium yellow-skinned melon has been a labor of love for Bayer Vegetable Seeds and they look forward to expanding distribution across the U.S. next season. Well done, team!

Yet it’s not just fresh produce that’s responding to consumer demand. I enjoy a snack as much as anyone and the right kind of snacks can help supplement a healthy diet. As a parent, I also want more nutritious options for my kids and these need to match the fast-paced lifestyle seen with today’s on-the-go families. In response to this need, the vegetable seeds division of Bayer recently launched Minigustos, the world’s first brand for tasty, crunchy, and attractive snack vegetables. And the results are in: market studies show that more than 70 percent of consumers approve.

Delivering innovative products that can help boost farmer incomes, satisfy the needs of retailers and exceed the high expectations of consumers is a challenge that we gladly accept. In the case of Sweet Spark, Walmart considered 100 varieties of cutting-edge, conventionally-bred seeds to find the exact variety they were looking for. Whether it’s seeds, traits, biological or synthetic chemicals, our scientists evaluate hundreds of thousands of products to find just the right one to meet consumer needs and demands.

But it’s not just agricultural companies that have recognized the power of consumer food preferences. Recently, the online giant retailer Amazon announced plans to buy Whole Foods, a grocery chain that plays to a more niche market, but is otherwise almost entirely a brick-and-mortar business. While this may have sent shockwaves through the retail food industry, my view of this is more measured: with the flood of new technologies available to grow quality food, it's not too surprising that innovations in retail are also happening.

So, with summer in full swing (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere), isn’t it time to sit back and enjoy that perfect melon on a warm sunny day? Share a photo of your favorite melon with me on Twitter @AdrianPercy!

How sweet is that?

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