Specialty bananas begin to achieve mainstream status

10/11/2011 12:31:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Exotic programs featuring an assortment of bananas are gaining popularity among traditional retailers.

“We find a lot of retailers want a full-service line of products,” said Scott DiMartini, Southeast U.S. sales manager for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Turbana Corp.

“That could include pineapples, plantains, reds, manzanos and babies.”

The increased demand is a result of traditional ethnic products becoming more mainstream, said Dennis Christou, vice president marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce, Coral Gables.

“Interest in these items varies across markets, but they can be very successful,” Christou said. “A great way to merchandise them is to give them ample visibility alongside traditional bananas.”

Dole’s organic, baby and red bananas are getting significantly more produce department shelf space, said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Fruit.

“Once supplies came back after the weather-related shortages, pent-up demand helped boost sales, making the second quarter stronger than normal,” Goldfield said. “Demand has returned to normal levels across most varieties.”

Mayra Velazquez de Leon, president of Organics Unlimited, San Diego, said she carries organic red bananas on a small scale.

“We’re selling everything we have,” Velazquez de Leon said, “but red bananas will remain a specialty item.”

Bill Sheridan, executive vice president sales of Coral Gables-based Banacol Marketing Corp., said specialties such as manzanos and babies must be ripened to the right stage, otherwise consumers won’t have a good eating experience and won’t buy more.

According to Turbana’s revamped website, red bananas are ripe when their skin is a deep red or maroon color.

The pink-yellow flesh is sweet and soft with a hint of raspberry.

Manzano or apple bananas are ripe when spotted and soft. Their creamy texture makes them great in salads and desserts.

Baby bananas, meanwhile, may be small in size but they’re big in flavor when ripened until spots appear on the skin.



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