Strive for perfect ripeness
Utilizing its technical services team, Coral Gables, Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte’s approach to banana merchandising has evolved at the ripening level, said Pablo Rivero, vice president of marketing.
“Over the years, we’ve learned the importance of properly training ripeners to ripen fruit to the desired color,” Rivero said. “In addition, Fresh Del Monte works closely with warehouse teams to confirm fruit is being handled gently to avoid bruising and scarring. These early steps help provide a better-quality product at store level.”
It also helps to have a great working relationship with your wholesaler or whoever it is that conditions your bananas, said Max Maddaus, produce director for Woodbury, Minn.-based Kowalski’s Markets. Kowalski’s has such a relationship with Russ Davis Wholesale.
“They have a great conditioning program, and they’re working every day to fine-tune it,” Maddaus said.
The key is to get bananas to retail with optimal color — not too green, not too yellow. Maddaus said the goal is to sell a group of bananas, maybe one of which can be eaten the day of purchase, but the others are still good three or four days later.
Punch up displays
Grocery retailers can add buzz to their merchandising efforts through creative and fun produce displays, Rivero said.
The use of secondary displays at quick-grab areas or beside seasonal products can be a unique way to grab the attention of consumers, he said. For example, retailers can pair bananas with ice cream for their summer displays or place them near the cereal for back-to-school.
Displays need to stay full, with no overripe product in them, Maddaus said. And to give some buzz to less-popular tropicals, like passion fruit, guava or passion fruit, try cross-merchandising them with bananas.
“It helps make customers a little more familiar with them.”
It’s also important to remember the power bananas have in generating both produce department visits and encouraging the sale of other non-produce items, added Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications for Charlotte, N.C.-based Dole Food Co.
“Secondary displays at check-out or alongside complementary items like cereal or dairy can promote bananas as an impulse purchase or single-serve snack option – and we suggest mixing it up with both seasonal and meal- and recipe-based displays to keep it fresh and interesting.”
For example, he said, featuring bananas in fall and winter displays reinforces the role of America’s favorite fruit in holiday and other seasonal recipes and serving suggestions. Since bananas pair with so many foods during all dayparts, the list of potential promo and sampling partners is a long one.