Snail mail was too slow, but soon came the telephone. It changed the way we communicated. There was the printing press, that changed how we spread knowledge. Cars changed the way we travel. Avocado-slicers changed the way we sliced avocados.
The point is, all these headaches were solved by creative efforts. As they say, "necessity is the mother of invention."
And apparently, Wal-Mart was having a headache, trying to deal with its fruit.
The necessity: Sell cantaloupes during the winter, when sales are at their lowest.
The invention: A one-of-a-kind cantaloupe.
Shawn Baldwin, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president for produce and global food sourcing, told Bloomberg of Wal-Mart's specific melon-based conundrum:
The multinational retailing corporation sells a kind of engineered cantaloupe that must withstand a 3,000-mile trip to select Wal-Mart stores. But this well-traveled fruit has come under scrutiny because on one hand the cantaloupes are appealing ("look good"), but on the other hand, the eyes deceive the mouth ("tastes like a piece of wood").
So what does the biggest U.S. grocer do to solve such a thing?
They go to seed experts in Germany and task them with designing a made-to-order melon that will satisfy a palate come winter or fall. And so, the seed experts at Bayer sowed, and Wal-Mart reaped, creating the rashly named Sweet Spark cantaloupe (named after Wal-Mart's sunray logo). Baldwin commented, "I hate the name but that's what the employees picked." I'm with you, Baldwin.
Wal-Mart's efforts to sell this new cantaloupe all season long will put them ahead of its competitors. According to Bloomberg, Wal-Mart sells about 10 times more cantaloupes in June than it does in December, so the bespoke melon is a huge game-changer. You can find these designer cantaloupes in only select Wal-Mart stores across the U.S. for now, but expect a full roll-out by fall.
The Sweet Spark cantaloupe is part of an ongoing effort by Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon to encourage customers to buy fruits and vegetables when they walk in (Note: Produce is the first thing you see when you enter Wal-Mart). Wal-Mart, along with its discount-chain competitors, Aldi and Lidl, are finding ways to stand out to grab hold of lower-income shoppers.
And for now, Wal-Mart definitely stands out as the one place you can get a juicy, ripe cantaloupe in the dead of winter (a truly fruitful effort).