Banacol backs sustainability push

Coral Gables, Fla.-based Banacol Marketing Corp., one of Colombia’s largest banana producers, is supporting a Colombian and Dutch government declaration that aims to make the banana sector more sustainable by 2015.

According to the document, released in June, Colombia is the world’s fourth largest banana exporter, with more than 10% of the global banana market and foreign sales generating around $700 million. About 95 million boxes of bananas exported annually.

The declaration advocates environmentally responsible practices that protect the country’s soil, water and biodiversity, along with fair compensation for workers.

It also aims to align certification standards in order to lower costs and increase efficiency, said Bill Sheridan, executive vice president of sales.

In return, the government promises to improve infrastructure and technology to increase competitiveness in the banana sector and promote the sale of sustainable bananas through commitments with importers and supermarket chains and consumer campaigns.

By 2015, Colombia expects to produce 36 million boxes of sustainable bananas.

Dole’s FreshPack gets warm initial reception

Dole is encouraged by consumer and retailer response to its new FreshPack bag, said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Fruit.

The microperforated 3-pound bag, divided into two pouches, was introduced in 10 Texas communities over the summer.

It’s designed to extend the life of bananas up to six days, Goldfield said.

Bananas from one pouch can be opened and enjoyed while the other side “sleeps” in an atmosphere of increased carbon dioxide.

Based on the bag’s success, Goldfield expects retailers and markets will soon be adding the new pack to their produce lineup.

New Del Monte bag extends shelf life

Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce NA has designed a 3-pound bag using its proprietary Controlled Ripening Technology to extend the shelf life of bananas up to three days.

Dennis Christou, vice president marketing, said the new bag will help retail customers increase banana sales and improve the fruit’s appearance and quality because of moisture retention and less handling.

Del Monte’s banana bag means labor savings for retailers, fewer deliveries and reduced shrink, Christou said.

Organics Unlimited adds acreage

San Diego-based Organics Unlimited has added 143 acres to its banana plantations in Colima, Mexico, for a total of 390 acres, said president Mayra Velazquez de Leon.

Production began in early summer and will help supply organic bananas to two new accounts, Whole Food Market stores in Texas and Kroger supermarkets in the Los Angeles area, said Velazquez de Leon.

“I’ve received e-mails from consumers in Texas saying they’re happy we’re in their stores,” she said.

The company also sells Fair Trade-certified organic bananas.

Organics Unlimited has also freshened-up its website and created a separate website for its GROW bananas, which raise funds to improve the lives of farm workers, their families and communities in Ecuador and Mexico.

Sales of GROW bananas have been strong for the past three years, she said, and now represent about 80% of the company’s organic bananas.

“I think the numbers are increasing because people know our program, especially on the West Coast, and we invite them to come down as volunteers to see what’s being done first-hand,” she said.

Velazquez de Leon said Organics Unlimited’s back-to-school promotions focused on bananas as a healthy snack for kids and adults.