When the weather warms up, banana sales cool down.
It’s a reality in the banana business, as marketers step aside to let the summer fruit and homegrown suppliers take over retail shelves.
Banana marketers say, though, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a time for them to ease up their own activity.
“I think that we really need a strategy to sell bananas in the summer,” said Mayra Velazquez de Leon, president of San Diego-based Organics Unlimited. “People do want to buy other fruits that are available, so I’d say that’s the only season that we need to market bananas.”
One way to do that would be to market bananas as part of cool, summertime repast, Velazquez de Leon said.
“We need to emphasize things like fruit salads or we usually do a back to school approach in September,” she said. “It’s a good snack for after the gym with school, etc., so we try to market it that way.”
It’s not an easy problem to solve, said Ed Odron, owner of Odron Produce Marketing & Consulting, Stockton, Calif.
“I think in summer is a real challenge when you’ve got peaches, plums, nectarines and soft fruit items,” Odron said. “In winter, you’ve got bananas, apples and oranges, and bananas hold their own. But it’s difficult to stay on top of the color in the summer and maintain it in the stores. It seems like they don’t quite do as well once you start hitting that April-through-September time. It seems like a lot of the soft fruit takes over and is in the cart a little bit more than bananas.”
That doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon bananas, said Odron, a former retail produce executive.
“I still kept a full display of bananas,” he said. “I’d usually put bananas in the back as a draw but kept a nice full display but kept it to where they had to walk through.”
Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International says summer and bananas are compatible for promotional activity.
“Because bananas are so convenient and versatile, we work to match our marketing efforts to the different activities and consumption occasions associated with each season,” said Craig Stephen, Chiquita’s vice president of North America bananas.
“For example, summer may be associated more with athletic activities, making bananas’ role as a sports nutrition staple more important, or associated with warmer temperatures offering the perfect setting for cool treats like banana smoothies.”
Autumn brings a back-to-school focus on promotions, Stephen said.
“Because of their portability, bananas are the perfect finishing touch to any school lunch, and in the cold shorter days of winter bananas can provide a quick, natural afternoon energy boost,” he said.
Bananas can be marketed effectively in different ways for different seasons, said Simcha Weinstein, marketing director for Albert’s Organics, Bridgeport, N.J.
“One of the key times of the year that we really push bananas is back-to-school time — a banana in every lunch box,” Weinstein said. “Because we do so well with and strongly support Fair Trade, we also promote bananas heavily during the month of October, which is Fair Trade month.
“Over the past couple of years, we have seen a strong increase in our sales of Fair Trade bananas, and they have become a significant portion of our banana sales.”
Dave Hahn, buyer with Ephrata, Pa.-based Four Seasons Produce Inc., agreed marketing bananas can vary by season.
“You do see some seasonality,” he said. “They’re much better in the fall and winter months. Business is definitely down in the late spring and summer. I’ve always been told everyone’s got the stone fruit and your local fruit that people are buying and foregoing the bananas.”
It’s not necessary to market bananas according to different seasons, said Bill Sheridan, executive vice president of sales for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Banacol Marketing Corp.
“I think it really comes back to the everyday, weekly sales, promoting nutritional benefits, making sure you have the right color,” Sheridan said. “It’s definitely an impulse item. Where a lot of the sales come from is what you have on display. It’s critical to your program.”