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Pundit’s Mailbag — Chiquita’s Banana Experiment

Back in early November, we ran a piece on a test Chiquita was running in South Florida:

Chiquita, working with Publix, is running a test of its new Chiquita Fresh & Ready product. The slogan is: Bananas that stay perfectly fresh until you’re ready to eat them!

The product is a covered tray of three bananas, net weight 17.2 oz. It uses what the label calls Chiquita FreshPak technology, which utilizes the BreatheWay technology that it licenses from Apio. Here is how the label explains it:

Chiquita knows that Fresh Tastes Best. So we’ve come up with a natural way to keep bananas fresher longer. The secret is our patented FreshPak. It lets in just the right amount of air to slow the ripening process naturally. So now you can enjoy great tasting bananas that are Fresh & Ready when you are.

The Pundit understands that many at the very highest level of Chiquita think this product is the future of bananas. We were a little more skeptical as we were concerned about the price premium they were being marketed at in Publix:

The consumer would pay less than 53 cents for 17.2 oz. of bulk bananas and will pay $1.59 for the same amount of the trayed product in modified atmosphere packaging — or almost three times as much.

That premium, combined with the availability of bananas in many venues — convenience stores, discount stores, etc. — plus the fact that many people hit supermarkets, supercenters or warehouse club stores more than once a week means the product is, at best, a niche product.

We may have been wrong, as others seem to be willing to pay up. We received this short but to-the-point letter:

I would pay $1 more for bananas that stay “fresh”…. providing the controlled atmosphere was proven safe for banana consumers.

— Sabrina Wootton
Sunsweet Growers Inc.
New Product Manager
Marketing Department

Of course, maybe New Product Managers are particularly willing to spring for new products, but Sabrina does point out another likely consumer concern. Will taking a natural product and packaging it for someone impact consumer safety?

It is a difficult marketing issue. If you talk about it, then you make others nervous who weren’t thinking about that. If you don’t talk about it, how do you appease Sabrina and others with similar concerns?

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