Social responsibility ties in with traceability for Turbana

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Social responsibility ties in with traceability for Turbana

Turbana may be the fourth-largest banana importer in the U.S. but the group's ambitions aren't about size, according to marketing director Marion Tabard. As the North American marketing arm for Colombian banana cooperative Uniban, the business has sought to differentiate itself through its socially responsible programs, and is now showing the results of these projects to buyers through QR code grower profiles.

Marion Tabard

Tabard says the company's social foundation is key for its business strategy, as a shipper founded on supporting a grower base now encompassing 166 banana farms in northern Colombia.

"We have the social foundation simply because to be able to operate, our success really depended on the well-being of the workers, so we’ve always had that at the core," she tells

She says the QR codes, launched in mid-October, give consumers access to the name of the grower of their bananas and a small profile of the farm, including the production area and the number of workers.

"We're taking the consumer back to the farm tell them that when they buy Turbana bananas they do make a difference. Why? Because for every single box of bananas that we sell, there’s a fixed amount that goes to our social foundation.

"The grower puts money and the company matches that amount, and we’ve done it through good and bad times.

"The objective is to bring it back full circle. We always talk about from farm to table, to show that not only their purchase that makes a difference but it also gives us an opportunity to thank them, because it is thanks to them that we are able to do those health, education and infrastructure programs that help the community."

She adds the new QR codes benefit retailers too by showing their transparency, while Turbana has also developed its own numbering system that links to the codes, providing traceability right back to the farm.

"Before we had traceability to the box so we could track everything so long as we had the box, but if you took everything out of it you didn't know where it's from.

"With that QR code, and that number is associated with a QR code, you know what farm it comes from, when exactly it was harvested, and you get the whole traceability back to the farm."

She says profiles have been created for every farm, which can be updated over time.

Turbana's new tropical line

The company, which is owned by growers along with a 50% stake for Irish fruit business Fyffes, does not only deal in bananas. While it has staked its claim as the leading U.S. importer of fair trade-certified dessert bananas and plantains, along with its growing distribution of pineapples, last month Turbana announced an expansion into 11 new tropical items.

"There are two reasons; one is that it's a way to have retailers reaching out to ethnic communities, such as Hispanics and Asians, to get more people from these backgrounds to come to their stores," says Tabard.

"The second thing is that we always to be a solution provider, and with the retailers by offering tropicals we can offer one-stop shopping.

"Most of the tropicals are usually from multiple sourcing so the buying process is quite challenging because it’s very time consuming for low volume items - we try to make the buying and the logistic process more efficient."

The products include yuca, chayote, yellow yams, malangas, coconuts, aloe vera, batatas, ñames and calabazas.

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