Specialties, such as plantains, are about 20% of banana category sales at Jessup, Md.-based Lancaster Foods Inc., said Jason Sigg, a buyer and ripener with the wholesale distributor, which has customers from New England to North Carolina.
“It’s gotten better,” he said. “In this area, it’s a big item. In fact, it’s hard to show them. They’re not moving at the rate of bananas, but it’s a big improvement.”
As for red bananas, Sigg said, “We have a few, if people ask.”
Smart retailers keep a regular stock of specialties because the category is growing, said Ed Odron, a consultant with Stockton, Calif.-based Produce Marketing Services.
“A few years ago, you sold 25-30 loads of bananas and 1,000 cases of plantains,” he said. “Now, they’re doing quite well in the stores. You get into the Central American and Hispanic customers, and they’re really becoming a real item for us.”
“Organics and plantains continue to be a growing part of our volume,” said Craig Stephen, vice president of North American bananas for Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International Inc.