Organic and specialty bananas continue to pique the curiosity of shoppers.

Conventional bananas still account for the bulk of production, but Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita all reported ongoing investment in organics.

Organic banana sales continue to climb every year, proving that organic is no longer just a consumer trend and is a permanent mainstream option in most produce departments,” said Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole.

“Nielsen syndicated data showed that organic banana sales volume increased 17.5% in 2017 compared to 2016. Dollar sales increased 13.9%, (indicating) that the average price per pound decreased.”

The company has had an organic program for more than 20 years and thus has been able to keep up with growing demand, Goldfield said.

Chiquita, which has its U.S. headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also reported that organic sales have continued to increase.

“The organic segment of the business continues to see double-digit growth (+25.3%) year over year,” said Jamie Postal, director of sales for North America for Chiquita.

“However, this segment only accounts for about 9% of the dollar share of the category. Chiquita has been planning and has the infrastructure in place to meet growing consumer demand.”

Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte, also said organic sales have increased each year.

Jessica Jones-Hughes, vice president of West Bridgewater, Mass.-based Oke USA, the importing arm of fair trade-focused Equal Exchange, said that organization has also seen growth in organic bananas.

Another growing area for bananas has been specialty options.

“One big opportunity to increase banana purchase size and frequency is to encourage trial and purchase of other banana varieties,” Goldfield said.

“We’re seeing growing interest in Dole’s specialty banana varieties, including Dole plantains, Dole baby bananas and Dole red bananas.

“These types of bananas are becoming more prevalent, not just at specialty and ethnic retailers, but at mainstream supermarkets alongside the conventional cavendish bananas,” Goldfield said.

Del Monte also noted the increasing interest in options like plantains.

“Consumers have developed more sophisticated tastes and as trends in healthy eating and interest in new tropical foods continue to grow, so does the demand for exotic and specialty bananas,” Christou said.

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