Banana trade history is unique...there is no other way to describe it. Could you envisage a coffee shop where you could get a cup of tea? Or a pub where beer was off the menu? I couldn't. The same principle works with bananas. There is no way that I would take a fruiterer, greengrocer or supermarket serious in their endavours to position themselves as purveyors of the entire produce range if they qere not stocking bananas.
Bananas are the foundation upon which the fruit retailer builds his credibility with the consumer. The origin for this phenomenon lies in the early decades of the 20th century. By that time the banana industry had become well established in the developed world, with regular shipments being received in US and European ports all year round. And that at a time when the consumers' mind was still very much aware of the seasonable limitations applying to fruits such as strawberries, apples, peaches, organges and others.
Bananas were thus for many years the only fruit in the produce department that was available 12 months of the year. Even when counterseasonal trade with Southern Hemisphere countries became the norm and New Zealand apples or kiwifruit started filling retail shelves during the Northern Hemisphere off seasons, bananas were capable of being sourced from the same country. The consumer therefore came to see bananas as a symbol withtin the retail produce environment, a symbol for continuity and a signal for quality. The banana trade history reflects this difference.
Elsewhere on this site I am discussing perception. There is a saying I am very fond of. Perception is nine tenth of reality and perception is most certainly a key driver when it comes to the way consumers use bananas to reach conclusions about th entire fruit and vegetable offer.
Here is a rough sense of how this banana based perception model works:
State of Banana Display
Bruised & Brown Bananas
Picked-over Banana Display
Well presented Banana Display, yellowing fruit in plentyful supply
The produce here is not ripe
All produce is damaged
The staff is slow and lazy
Where is a Health Inspector?
I like shopping here, the produce is of good quality and the staff know what they are doing
As you can see, any produce retailer wishing to succeed has some real incentives to stay on top of his banana display - which by the way can amount to 7-10% of produce department turnover, depending upon the size of the range and the amount of value-add products being sold.
It is therefore understandable that retailers have high expectations of their banana merchants. Regular deliveries, fruit ripened to the correct stage, a controlled ripenening process, that gives stores plenty of time to move the fruit at full price, very competitive pricing in the first place, merchandise support, marketing campaigns...a neverending list of demands. The banana trade history is full of examples.
The individual banana companies are discussed elsewhere on this website but in a meta sense, the relationship between retailers and their banana suppliers is politely expressed, complex. The history of the banana trade therefore makes for fascinating reading.
Banana companies such as Dole, Bonita, Chiquita, Dole, Fyffe, etc, are essentially global, with the strings typically being pulled in a central Head Office in the US; andd all have substantially contributed to the ovrall banana trade history. Now, if there is one thing retailers do not like, it is being told what to do or that they cannot have something. Banana companies are the only produce department supply segment which gets away with exercising consistently a substantial degree of influence in the retail supply relationship...and they are therefore not always the retailers' flavour of the month...but a produce department ain't a produce department without bananas...and retailers understand this, especially the one's with corporate ambitions of their own...