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Turbana Corp. moving quality bananas during exceptional production period

Marion Tabard, director of marketing for Turbana Corp. in Coral Gables, FL, said that banana growers in Colombia’s Turbo region are recovering from the effects of flooding earlier this year and moving into a period of exceptional banana production.

“Colombia was hit by devastating flooding in [the first quarter of 2011] that severely [affected] the area — communities, grower production and infrastructure,” she told The Produce News Oct. 4. “A state of emergency was declared by the Colombian government, as these floods were among some of the worst in the country’s history.”

Turbana works with a vast network of grower-owned-and-operated farms.

“We are proud that we offer our customers top, consistent quality 52 weeks of the year,” Ms. Tabard said. In addition to its conventional bananas, Turbana sources organic product in alternative Colombian growing regions.

Turbana Corp. also markets plantains, Manzanos and Ninos.

“Plantain product is slowly recovering from the flooding damage at the end of 2010,” Ms. Tabard said. “Demand for the new plantain varieties — burros and Hawaiian — are good. These new varieties are helping to expand the plantains into a category. Retailers see the value in handling these items.”

Plantains continue to be discovered by U.S. consumers. The peel of the fruit turns from green to black as the fruit ripens. Although plantains can be sweet enough to eat raw when they are very ripe, the starchy fruit is generally handled like a vegetable and is primarily cooked.

The peel of the Manzano, a short chunky banana, also turns black as the fruit ripens.

“Manzanos are an exciting variety giving consumers a fun and new tasting experience,” Ms. Tabard went on to say. When sugar-spotted, the flavor is a cross between kiwi, strawberry, banana and a hint of citrus. Turbana provides consumers with point-of-sale materials to educate them about the eating qualities of the fruit and when it is best consumed.

Ninos are one-third the size of a typical banana, but have a more concentrated flavor.

Plantains, Manzanos and Ninos have long been enjoyed by Latin American populations, and are gaining in popularity in general.

“Plantains, Manzanos and Ninos have clearly crossed over to the non-ethnic consumers,” Ms. Tabard said. “Customers travel, and exposure to these items on cable television has created interest in the new foods.”

The company recently launched its new web site, and a wealth of information is available. Visitors to the site can learn more about the company and its philosophy of social responsibility, obtain nutritional information, find out more about healthy plantain chips and learn more about fair trade practices.

Turbana is exploring technology applications such as quick response codes, and Ms. Tabard said that there will be more to come on the technology front in 2012.

Turbana Corp. is exhibiting at the Produce Marketing Association’s 2011 Fresh Summit in Atlanta at Booth 4347. “The whole sales team will be there,” Ms. Tabard said.