Turbana exec: Consistency and secondary retail displays key for banana sales
Turbana VP of sales Herb Garritt told www.freshfruitportal.com there was usually a certain level of "dryness" in Colombia in February and March, although this year growing conditions during the period were "somewhat unusual".
"It's been a lot drier there for a longer period of time, but once again, we have been able to fulfill our commitments and our contracts by going to other sourcing, outside of Colombia in Costa Rica and in Ecuador," said Garritt, whose company is a subsidiary of Colombian banana cooperative Uniban and is 50% owned by Ireland-based Fyffes Plc (ESM:FFY).
"The other thing is, here in North America 90 plus percent of the fruit that's sold is on a contract...the retail prices stayed the same.
"We will come out and we will be in a very good situation as far as supply for the second semester of the year," the executive said, while also clarifying that recent blowdowns in Colombia were very limited and would not make a difference to Turbana's supply.
When asked how the banana category could maintain sales pace in the face of heightened competition from summer fruits, Garritt highlighted two areas: consistency in color and implementing secondary displays.
"The key for the industry is first of all to have consistent supply, and also at the retail level to have consistent color. Color is the most important factor at the retail level, besides the fact you have to have the retail display area of greater size and keep the banana display full at all times.
"As the banana industry we like to see larger retail display areas, but in certain times of the year, naturally going into the summer season they like to reduce the banana displays somewhat because you’ve got the stonefruit, the grapes, the melons and so forth.
"The other thing we’re very much engaged in is also secondary displays, which we have found to increase banana sales by as much as 10%. It can be set up in the cereal aisle, at the check-out counter, or with the ice cream, wherever the retailer feels it could give the biggest impulse buy."
In terms of different varieties, Garritt pointed to growth for plantains, red bananas, baby bananas and manzanos, as well as crops outside the musa family such as yucca (cassava) and chayote.
When asked about corporate changes within the banana market, Garritt said it was too early to tell what the impact would be from the new ownership of Chiquita Brands, while there had been no changes from the privatization of Dole in 2013.
"They [Dole] have fewer people, but I haven't seen any changes in how they run the business."
While the banana industry is dominated by large players, Garritt said there was always room for niche companies if they had consistent quantity and quality.
"I feel that in the banana category, the growth item is organic bananas because a lot of the retailers have initiatives to grow organic.
"We are currently sourcing our organic bananas out of Ecuador."
Garritt also highlighted Uniban exported 90,000 boxes of fair trade bananas a week on average, making it the largest fair trade banana grower in the world.
"We have at heart the conditions of our farming community. I think the Fair Trade program is very empowering.
"The only thing that I’d say about our company Turbana, and Uniban, and Fyffes which owns 50% of our company, is we're very socially responsible and we have been for 45 years, since the inception of the company. It’s not something that we talk about, we just do it.
The company applies this corporate social responsibility to the U.S. as well through different programs. One of them is its partnership with Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) New York, which has been flourishing since it was formed in September last year.
The executive said the program focused on children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities, and sought to empower the local community.
"Now the two companies are excited to announce we’ve launched the initiative KEEN on Growing, which is a new urban gardening program which will give the athletes an opportunity to work collectively and develop responsibility and gain positive attitudes toward healthy eating.
"The gardening project also shows athletes the importance of the community and environmental consciousness."