Photo from Fyffes

“Cut out bananas and banish belly fat forever!” reads one online ad.

Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, whose clients include Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, made news for banning bananas from his 5-Factor Diet, dismissing them as a nutritional waste of time on the rationale that most of the fiber and nutrients are in the skin.

Other fitness and diet “experts” claim bananas are loaded with carbs and sugar, leading to instant weight gain and soaring blood sugar.

Whether or not young people are taking these messages to heart, the fact remains that 64% of millennials bought bananas from a grocery store in the past year, compared to 80% of shoppers 40 and older, according to The Packer’s 2018 Fresh Trends consumer research.

When asked what they make of this unappealing statistic, banana growers and marketers don’t seem the least bit concerned, pointing out that bananas remain one of the favorite fruits, purchased by more than 76% of consumers in the past year.


Millennial potential

Jamie Postell, director of North American sales for Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Chiquita, sees the gap as an opportunity. Though young people age 6 to 17 and millennials 18 to 34 may be “underdeveloped” banana consumers, the same groups have shown the biggest increases in banana consumption over the past decade, Postell said.

Carolina Garcia, marketing manager for Fyffes North America in Coral Gables, Fla., agrees.

“As millennials mature and settle down with families of their own, we expect these same once-in-a-while consumers to transition to regular banana consumers as they will be responsible for feeding their growing families,” Garcia said.

Organic growers are also pleased with their sales. San Diego, Calif.-based Organics Unlimited says their GROW bananas are doing especially well since more consumers want to know where their food comes from, how it was grown and at what cost to workers and the environment.

“Consumers appreciate a brand that gives back to the community,” said president Mayra Velazquez de Leon. “According to our research, millennials are not only buying more organic produce but also more bananas.”

Chiquita, too, is showing the world how its bananas are grown. Between mid-July and mid-August more than 200 million Chiquita blue stickers in the U.S. and Europe sported a code connected to the popular Shazam audio and visual recognition app. Upon downloading the app, viewers were transported to the tropics to follow the journey of a banana from a sustainable farm in Latin America to the port, across the Atlantic and to their kitchen table via the grocery store.

In October, for the second consecutive year, 100 million Chiquita bananas worldwide will be wearing pink to raise breast cancer awareness.


Health attributes

On the nutrition front, Postell said bananas provide millennials with exactly what they’re looking for: a delicious natural snack with simple, clean ingredients and no artificial colors or flavors.

Dietitians say bananas are free from fat, cholesterol and sodium. The potassium in a banana may help lower blood pressure, and eating a banana gives you a third of your daily B6, important for cell growth. Between those and other vitamins and minerals, you have a source of energy for exercise and a way to help your body recover post-workout.

Companies are harnessing the power of social media to promote these nutritional benefits and encourage consumption with easy recipes.

“The more consumers understand how they can incorporate bananas into their everyday lives,” Garcia said, “the more likely they will be willing to try it at home and reap the benefits of this nourishing fruit.”

Postell has discovered that more home bakers are using bananas to replace butter and refined sugar.

As for foodservice, he sees an opportunity to include bananas as an ingredient in a retailer’s coffee, juice or smoothie corner, noting a trend in banana milk and “nice-cream” and the popularity of mermaid bowls – chopped frozen bananas, spirulina powder, Greek yogurt and toppings.


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