ORLANDO, Fla. -- The National Watermelon Promotion Board, based here, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with the news that watermelon is enjoying its highest level of consumption in 19 years.
Citing U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, NWPB said that the number of American consumers eating the summertime favorite is up 36% since 1980, when consumption was an all-time low. That year, the average consumer ate only 10.7 pounds of watermelon.
In comparison, the average consumer in 1998 ate 14.5 pounds. And in 1999, it has been estimated that the number will rise to 15.5 pounds.
The NWPB attributes the higher rate to a number of factors, including year-round product demand and availability, a more health-conscious consumer pool, economic growth, a creative marketing plan and the appearance of a number of improved varieties, such as seedless melons, in produce departments.
Officials said that increased promotional efforts have also contributed to the rise, including the distribution of the association's annual five-panel brochure called "Chef's Best: Watermelon Celebration."
In this year's brochure, a number of chefs from around the United States share their own creative recipes, using watermelon as the main ingredient. Each panel of the brochure includes a picture of a chef, a quote from the chef regarding the dish, an ingredients list, preparation instructions and a picture of the finished product. There are five recipes in all.
One featured recipe is from Gale Gand, a chef at Brasserie T, Northfield, Ill. She demonstrates how to make her Watermelon Granita-Filled Lime Cups, to serve 12 people. Another recipe features Watermelon Lemonade, made by George Brown, a chef who is opening a new restaurant in Dallas. His recipe takes 20 minutes and requires a chilling time of one hour.
In addition to the recipes, the NWPB also includes a watermelon facts sheet. This section provides consumer tips on selecting watermelons and points out that fresh ones have a pale yellow underside. It also has a section on preparation and storage recommendations. One tip suggests freezing watermelon chunks in plastic trays to use later as ice cubes.
There is also a watermelon nutritional facts sheet, courtesy of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., on the back flap of the brochure.
Currently, the brochures are being distributed through in-store demonstrations under the NWPB's "Melon Master" card retail-partnership program. Retailers that sign up for the program are eligible to schedule in-store sampling and cooking demonstrations run completely by the NWPB.
Besides in-store demonstrations, the card allows participating retailers to receive market-research statistics and customized merchandising tips. These include various ways in which to display watermelons -- placing them on ice, grouping whole watermelons with cut watermelons, selling them alongside cantaloupe and honeydew melons, using consumer-friendly color bins and placing watermelon displays at the checkout counter to promote impulse sales.