(Aug. 27, 10:25 a.m.) Matt Dietz, who invented the first watermelon carton in the U.S., died on July 27. He was 83.

Dietz began his career in the produce industry working for his father’s firm, Chicago-based watermelon distributor R.H. Dietz and Co., nephew Bill Dietz said.

In 1960, as a partner in Holiday Specialties Co., Chicago, Matt Dietz revolutionized the winter melon deal by inventing the first watermelon carton. Before this, the company had imported bulk watermelons from Mexico in the off-season.

Matt Dietz recognized that this was too much work for the light demand of winter months, so with Tony Hudler of International Paper Inc., Edinburg, Texas, he developed the carton. It held three to five peacock watermelons, which weighed between 70-75 pounds.

Recognizing the benefits of this carton, other manufacturers adopted the design, and soon it became an industry standard.

Additionally, Matt Dietz helped develop the first automatic bulk watermelon loading and grading machine in 1963.

In the mid-60s, Matt Dietz founded his own produce company, Matt Dietz Co., in Laredo, Texas, growing and shipping onions, cantaloupes, honeydews and watermelons in the Texas valley, Bill Dietz said.

Matt Dietz Co. suffered a series of legal setbacks and closed a few years ago, Bill Dietz said.

Additionally, Matt Dietz served as an officer for both the Texas Watermelon Association and the National Watermelon Association.

Matt Dietz’s brother, Robert H. Dietz Jr., assumed ownership of R.H. Dietz and Sons Inc. following their father’s death. His younger brother was a principal in Dietz & Kolodenko Co. Inc., another Chicago distributor. Both brothers and his sister, Helen, preceded him in death, Bill Dietz said.

Matt Dietz is survived by 15 nieces and nephews, many of whom are involved in the produce industry, Bill Dietz said.

Inventor of watermelon carton dies
Dietz