Hen House, a retailer in the Kansas City, Mo., area, recently ran newspaper ads promoting Dole bananas for 19 cents a pound.

The offer was laden with provisos, including using the chain’s rewards card and a purchase limit of 5 pounds and no full-case sales. Prices were good from Jan. 19-25.

Hen House did not return calls for comment on the promotion, but it did get some positive feedback from some suppliers and at least one retail consultant.

“I was really impressed with that promotion,” said Ed Odron, a consultant with Stockton, Calif.-based Produce Marketing Services. “I think that’s pretty slick. I think it’s out of the box and a great idea. It’s something different nobody else is doing. They’ve got this thing coming back with bananas, and it’s great. It’s a healthy item.”

Some suppliers said they had never heard of such a promotion on such a staple item as bananas.

But no matter, Odron said.

“I think that when you’re looking at the price of bananas, it’s not out of line,” he said. “When you’re talking about 19 cents a pound, I think that’s great. You get the people back in the store and that’s the key issue. They’re not just going to pick up one item. I think it’s a pretty unique idea. I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

It’s about building traffic, and 19-cent bananas will do that, Odron said.

“You need to get them inside your building,” he said. “Then your end caps, you see a little here and there and that’s the key.”

Ray Taglialatela, retail services manager for Ephrata, Pa.-based distributor Four Seasons Produce Inc., said he had never seen a promotion like that.

But, he said, there are plenty of other promotional tools available.

“It’s price, display, POS (point-of-sale materials),” he said. “Bananas are one of the commodities where you really can’t afford to buy too far.”

Price-related promotions generally are done with other gains in mind, Taglialatela said.

“Generally, I find retailers promote bananas to get a price point where maybe they can get some residual benefits from an image standpoint,” he said. “The average retailers relies heavily on the margin dollars that bananas carry, so you can’t promote them (on ad) monthly any longer. Banana companies won’t support that type of ad activity.”

Nor will margins, he said.

“The markets on bananas are high enough that those price points of 3 pounds for a dollar or 39 cents a pound just aren’t happening that frequently anymore,” he said. “It sounds like Hen House is maybe using bananas to maybe drive extra foot traffic and maybe improve some price image.”

The idea of using bananas as a loss leader is also possible, Taglialatela said.

“If you have a customer in your department for an extra 25-30 seconds, you’re bound to sell more, that’s for sure. That’s pretty much a fact,” he said.

Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International Inc. says it focuses on a number of promotional program that transcend price.

“Bananas remain one of the best values in produce, both from a cost and nutritional perspective,” said Craig Stephen, vice president of North America bananas for the banana shipper. “We continue to focus on driving consumption increases for our retail partners by working to keep Chiquita bananas top of mind when the consumer is at home through television and digital media outreach that include connections directly back to the banana table.

“For instance, last year we held a much celebrated sticker design contest, tie-ins with premium video games and other in store contests, like our Find Chiquita promotion.”