“Consumers are increasingly engaged with more experimental cooking in their home menu prep, both for family and hosting, so we are seeing more desire for new usage ideas and a willingness in trying new ingredients,” said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Dole Fresh Fruit, Westlake Village, Calif.
For some consumers, this attitude of experimentation with food ingredients has brought on an increased demand for specialty banana products.
“The colors, unique taste and interesting sizes of specialty bananas, such as red, manzano and baby, are appealing to kids and offer tremendous opportunities to increase consumption among younger consumers and adults who seek variety,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce, Coral Gables, Fla.
Goldfield says Dole is always on the lookout for new varieties.
“Varieties are always on our radar,” he said.
“We have recently done some testing of specialty varieties in a few select markets and are still in the process of analyzing the results but have no plans yet for a wide rollout or national distribution of any new products.”
Bill Sheridan, executive vice president of sales for Banacol Marketing Corp., Coral Gables, Fla., agrees that demand for specialty bananas is high right now.
“Consumers are looking for variety,” he said.
Sheridan says he’s seen an increase in retailers that carry more than one banana variety.
“In the past few years, conventional supermarkets have begun expanding into specialty bananas like manzanos,” he said.
Sheridan says that in the past, these unique varieties were only found in specialty stores.
Also, he said he has noticed specialty banana varieties help lead the way for other tropical items.
Marketers also believe specialty bananas don’t take away sales from traditional bananas.
“It’s an increase in sales to offer the specialty bananas. There’s no cannibalism in the category,” Sheridan said.
Consumers have also started to use traditional bananas in new ways.
“The opportunity to introduce new preparation suggestions, perhaps in ways not typical for bananas, in salads, as a savory chutney or salsa ingredient ... resonates strongly with consumers,” Goldfield said.