(Dec. 11, 5:21 p.m.) The recession-resistant banana is helping Chiquita’s bottom line.

Higher banana prices helped offset higher industry costs in October and November, officials with Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International reported Dec. 9. Meanwhile, Chiquita’s Fresh Express salads business gained 8% in dollar sales compared with October and November last year, even though volume dropped 1% . Company officials said a fuel surcharge was part of the reason for the revenue gain for salad mixes.

The recession is proving to have little if any effect on banana demand, one analyst said.

“Bananas are a low-cost item for consumers,” said Carla Caselle, analyst with J.P. Morgan, New York, said Dec. 10. “People don’t consider not buying bananas,” she said.

Generally speaking, she said a recession environment means food sold in supermarkets performs better than food sold in restaurants.

Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a news release Dec. 9 that he expects relatively tight industrywide supply conditions will continue into 2009, particularly in view of flooding in parts of Costa Rica and Panama.

The company’s figures showed North American banana pricing was up 35%, including surcharges, compared with the two-month period a year ago. Meanwhile, bananas shipped to North America increased 3% in volume, the company said.

Chiquita’s Fresh Express unit has the biggest market share among salad marketers, although Caselle said Dole is a strong competitor. Chiquita estimated Fresh Express had a 47% market share in value-added salads last fall.

For the three quarters ending Sept. 30, the company reported revenues of $1.57 billion for bananas and slightly more than $1 billion for salads.

Caselle said the company refinanced all of its debt before the recent credit crunch, which helps Chiquita’s outlook.