The changing nature of banana marketing in recent years has placed a new emphasis on quality control.
“Strict quality control is the number one conversation among our customers,” David Byrne, vice president of sales for Thermal Technologies, one of the industry’s larger designers and installers of produce ripening rooms, said in a company press release. “Working with some of North America’s largest retailers, we’ve found that the emphasis has become less about sourcing and more about quality and consistency at the point-of-sale.”
This new emphasis on quality and consistency at retail pulls together the interests of both retailers and producers, making ripening operations more important than ever. “The ripening operation is the linchpin that enables retailers to provide the same consistent, high quality fruit whether it comes from one supplier or many,” Byrne said in the release. “This has created a new partnership mentality in which all the stakeholders share the same common goal.”
In the same way that politics makes strange bedfellows, the new focus on retail quality also places competitors on the same team. “Due to the sheer size and volume of our retail customers, we often end up working side-by-side with more than one of the major suppliers at the same retailer at the same time,” Byrne said in the release. “While this may have been unheard of in the past, this new partnership mentality makes good business sense today, where the needs of the retailer drive the market.”
While the shift of market power toward retailers has created opportunities for smaller growers and suppliers, the power of the bigger banana companies and their ability to provide stem-to-store quality along with value-added services and marketing keeps them in a strong position.
“There’s no doubt that the major brands will continue to have a powerful influence on the industry,” Byrne said in the release. “They have the biggest combined share of the marketplace as well as a solid track record of success and well-established industry relationships. As the industry continues to diversify with more growers and an increase in organics and other banana varieties, there’s no doubt that ripening will also continue to play an increasingly important role in ensuring all these products reach the consumer with the predictable high quality and consistency they demand.”