by Stefania Medetti
"Even Marilyn wasn't perfect," declares the homepage of the Melasì website where, like the famous American actress, the fruit has a small "beauty-spot" on its skin. Not all tempests are in a teapot. Especially the hailstorm that in 12 minutes destroyed 12 months of work of Trentino apple growers, hitting the orchards the day before the harvest was to begin. Almost a sign of destiny. The result? The birth of Melasì, the sub-brand part of the Melinda apple Consortium which in recent days has returned once again in TV with a new advertising campaign created by the Cernuto, Pizzigoni & Partners agency which developed the multimedia advertising for both brands in which the two types of fruit - blemished and unblemished - are just "non-identical twins". "At the beginning, it was a real blow to morale for everyone," says Luca Granata, the Consortium's managing director. "Then, partially out of pride and partially out of desperation we began to come up with a way to make use of a quality crop that was the victim of nature."
And so, again this year, following summer hail, the Consortium decided to transform the problem into an opportunity not just for growers, but also for consumers. "In fact, Melasì is marketed at a price that is 25-30% lower than Melinda. This is because the growers, who are insured against bad weather conditions, have already received partial compensation and accept a lower profit," Granata continues. For consumers, affected by the crisis hitting Europe, it is an opportunity to buy products of guaranteed quality at a lower price.
Instead of turning the apples into juice, the Consortium decided to market them and, depending on consumer response, could total sales of 20-30,000 tons of produce. And this, at retail prices, translates into 25 million euros. The success of organically-grown products that has contributed to clearing the way for less-than-perfect goods in people's perception will do the rest. Melasì represents, in fact, a value added brand because it is backed by the strongly-established name of the Consortium. "Melasì is destined for all those who are willing to accept some small compromise in appearance, but not in quality, and those who think that every piece of fruit is a gift of nature and should not be wasted or demeaned." As for the sales goals, the Consortium - which deals exclusively with the conservation, selection, packaging and sales of the apples grown by its members and invests around 1-2% of billings in advertising - hopes to make about 10 cents a kilo, about 2 cents per apple, more in profit for its members than if the fruit had been turned into apple juice.
Out of the entire 2011 harvest, Melasì represents about 10% of the crop and is also a strategically-important case for the entire sector. Italy, with over two million tons of crop per year, is one of the main apple growers in Europe-27. In fact, Italy represents about 20% of EC production, with a turnover estimated to be one billion euros. Of this total, the Melinda Consortium is about 15% of national production, catalyzing the labor of over 4 thousand fruit growers and their families, and over five thousand pickers during the months of September and October, not to mention approximately one thousand employees involved in the various departments of the Consortium.