Seed breeding and innovation is bringing to market new melons that are sweeter and have flesh that maintains its firmness after being cut.

Creve Coeur, Mo.-based seed giant Monsanto Co. has a new, small, dark orange flesh melon called Melorange. The variety is sweeter, with brix of 12 to 14, said Joep van de Burgt, business development manager and consumer benefits melon development lead. The company expects to achieve a consistent brix level of 14 soon, he said.

This winter, Monsanto worked with Plantation, Fla.-based Fresh Quest Inc. to test market the Melorange. That test market should last through the end of May, van de Burgt said. The melons are being grown in Honduras and Guatemala.

The company is also working with select retailers, including St. Louis-based Schnuck’s Markets, in the trial run.

“They had them in the store two weeks ago and did some in-store sampling,” van de Burgt said March 18. “Response was so great they’re going to expand to 11 stores this weekend and 50 stores in the next couple of weeks.”

The Melorange is smaller than a typical cantaloupe, and is meant to claim its own space on the shelf, not to take the place of the traditional Western shipper cantaloupe. It also has a different look, sporting dark green sutures instead of netting.

Monsanto is working with growers in Arizona and California to test the variety’s domestic growing performance this summer.

The company also has two melons in the pipeline — a honeydew melon that should be in test markets this summer and a watermelon that it’s preparing for a 2013 launch.

SweetPeak is an orange-flesh honeydew with a deeper flavor profile than honeydew currently on the market, van de Burgt said. It’s skin changes color as it ripens, allowing growers to more easily pick melons at the most opportune time.

SummerSlice, the watermelon, is a full size seedless watermelon bred to have flesh that stays firm longer after being cut.

Feasterville, Pa.-based Abbott & Cobb Inc. has added varieties to its honeydew program and touts the varieties’ dense flesh, enhanced color, few defects and extended shelf-life.

Sakata Seed America Inc., based in Morgan Hill, Calif., is launching Avatar, a melon with a medium open cavity.

“It has firm, flavorful orange flesh,” said Atlee Burpee, senior product manager and Eastern sales manager. “The exterior is light green and turns to a yellow-tan when fully ripe.”

The variety is ideal for higher latitudes, and produces 7- to 9-pound melons, Burpee said.

Gedera, Israel-based Zeraim Gedera focuses almost exclusively on watermelon for the U.S. market. The company recently launched a variety called Sugar Coat that is slightly larger, has crisper flesh and is sweeter than its stronghold variety in the Southern growing regions of the U.S., Sugar Heart.

The company also has two personal-sized watermelons that are fairly new to the market, Sugar Bite and Summer Bite.

“We try to develop varieties that are true minis,” said Robert Arriga, area business manager for Zeraim Gedera based in Texas. “Some companies have a little bigger size and ask the grower to work with the plant population, but we feel we have developed these varieties that are true minis.”

Zeraim Gedera is part of Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta AG after an acquisition in the 2000s, but still operates independently.

Syngenta itself has a new watermelon variety on the market — Fascination — bred to have firm flesh that will not break down and soften as quickly after cutting.

“It’s a new generation of watermelon that has come out of our breeding program,” said Andreas Steiner, director of marketing for Syngenta. “Consumers would like to get more bite and a sweeter aroma with watermelon. With this new generation we are able to address this.”

Steiner said the variety has been made available to growers, and it is in high demand.