Melinda stands for excellent apples but it is also a large consortium of 16 cooperatives that bring together over 4,100 small-scale farmers covering around 6,500 hectares of apple orchards in the Val di Non and Val di Sole (the Noce Valley) area of Trentino. The climatic conditions here (at an altitude of between 300 and 900 m), with over 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, the area’s soil quality and its abundance of water provide ideal conditions for growing apples, a tradition in this region that dates back centuries.
Not only one variety
Over 315,000 tonnes of Melinda apples (over 300,000 tonnes of wich are consumed as fresh fruit) are harvested annually, around 15% of the Italian total, with a 1,500 tonnes a year produced organically. Product quality is extremely high across the various varieties, which include the Golden Delicious (70% of the total), the Red Delicious (10%), the Canadian Reinette (8%), the Gala (5%), the Fuji (6%) and the Morgenduft (1%).
In 2003, the Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Canada Reinette varieties were awarded Protected Origin status, the only ones in Italy to receive this. All the farming concerns (100%) have been awarded Global-Gap certification and all of them respect pest control standards, for DOP, IPM and the Melinda Consortium standard.
Integrated production techniques are aimed at drastically reducing or eliminating the use of broad-spectrum chemicals in fruit growing, replaced with more natural and biological cultivation techniques, in order to produce better fruit in an environmentally sensitive way, the environment being the true asset that needs preserving in the interest of both the producers and consumers.
This is an important recognition of the commitment and the quality work done in recent years by the fruit and vegetable growers of the Valley; in addition, it is an award to the effort made to implement - and not without hardship - the drastic reduction in pesticide sprays required under the integrated production system that Consorzio Melinda has decided to follow for several years now. Today Melinda's quality is also recognised by the highest European authority in charge of safeguarding the characteristics of an original product.
Fully traceable production line
Optimization of production is accompanied by logistical efficiency. Melinda has bins for the harvest of over 330,000 tonnes of fruit, refrigerated cells for controlled-atmosphere storage for more than 300,000 tonnes (100% of apples to be eaten fresh) and scientific, computerised selection and packaging systems. Melinda’s five processing centres comply with strict international certification requirements (Haccp, ISO 9001, BRC, IFS).
All this guarantees complete traceability of the product and makes it possible to package up to 1,500 tonnes a day, six days a week, ensuring that the 1,000 customers it supplies to in 33 countries receive their orders promptly and regularly.
The export strategy
The consortium has been stepping up its foreign trade in recent years. The percentage of output exported grew from 12% in 2001 to 25% (last 3 years average). Melinda already exports its apples in more than 33 countries, and corporate strategy will lead in the coming years to further increases in the number of destinations and quantities exported. In the last years Melinda has invested over 90 million € on structures and technology designed to offer current and potential foreign customers the very best product quality and service standards and over 20 million € in solar-powered energy production. It is now looking carefully into the development of new trading partnerships.