BanaBay is one company that can boast an extremely successful year despite the ongoing economic woes and difficult times faced by UK businesses. This time last year, the premium banana brand was unheard of and yet within months of its launch in the UK, BanaBay is shipping in excess of a million bananas a week – not only into Europe, but also to New Zealand, China, Egypt and most recently, into Malta, with trials shortly to commence in South America and the US.
Although the brand is new, the experience behind BanaBay is the key to its success. BanaBay bananas have been grown on extensive, ethically operated and Global G.A.P. accredited plantations in Ecuador for over thirty years. Historically, the fruit has been provided to major established brands such as Fyffes and Del Monte for export, particularly to the US, but the decision was made in 2012 to market the bananas to Europe under the company’s ‘own brand’. Following initial trials, the first container load of BanaBay bananas arrived at Tilbury in September last year.
Wholesaler demand for the premium quality fruit quickly drove up volumes to two, then three container loads per week, and, by the beginning of this year imports had grown to five containers per week, enabling BanaBay to guarantee wholesalers six day continuity of supply.
Feedback, not only from wholesalers, but from retailers too has been hugely positive, with one experienced fresh produce buyer commenting that BanaBay were offering ‘possibly the best bananas in 20 years’.
Premium quality – appearance and taste
According to Managing Director of BanaBay, Mark O’Sullivan, a priority for the brand was to refine the cold chain and ripening process to ensure the fruit arrived with customers in perfect condition, depending on individual requirement as to how green or yellow the fruit should be. “Banana ripening is a complex job. If the fruit is exposed to temperatures that are too high, the bananas will ripen rapidly and irregularly, resulting in poor keeping quality. On the other hand, if the temperature is too low, the bananas will ripen too slowly, affecting taste,” he says. “We have focused on delivering excellent quality fruit, backed by flexible and reliable customer service – it’s a recipe that seems to be working!”
Indeed, in addition to rising sales, BanaBay bananas have received further independent recognition for their quality from within the industry. In September, BanaBay plantation owners netted an impressive two places in the hotly contested ‘Banana King’ competition, held each year in Ecuador – a country well recognised worldwide for producing premium quality bananas.
Competing with over 30 established plantations for five winning positions, BanaBay was judged on the size and quality of their bunches, and secured both third and fourth position for BanaBay.
BanaBay’s latest contract is with Mafimex, a leading fruit importer for Malta and Gozo whose customers include most of the top hotels and restaurants in Malta, as well as wholesalers, supermarkets and other retail stores. Initially, BanaBay will represent around 10% of banana imports to the islands, but the longer term goal is to build market share up to 40%.
“Our customers expect premium quality products and this is what we will deliver with BanaBay bananas,” Mafimex Managing Director Mark Mizzi confirmed.
“We have been impressed by the quality of the produce but also by the professional service from BanaBay, and look forward to building a strong market for the new brand in Malta.”
New for 2014
Next stop for the company is Fruit Logistica in February, the world’s biggest fruit trade fair, where BanaBay will showcase its range of premium bananas for the first time, including Fairtrade, Organic, Organic Fairtrade and conventional bananas.
Importantly, BanaBay will be also showcasing a new product for 2014 at Fruit Logistica, namely premium quality Ecuadorian plantains.
“We have been very ambitious with the product because when we introduce BanaBay bananas to a new market, they perform well on taste and quality, and this has enabled us to actively build up an extensive portfolio of customers in a relatively short space of time,” Mark O’Sullivan concludes. “Now we are keen to build on that success, meet more potential customers at Fruit Logistica and extend our global marketplace. The growing range we offer, combined with the unique relationship we enjoy with our Ecuadorian growers, means that we can offer a flexible package which ensures consistent quality and continuity of supply at competitive prices.”
“Our target is to grow to 30 containers a week by the end of 2014 and we hope to double that figure year on year. We predict strong growth in New Zealand, where the market expects premium quality fruit; also we will look to open up markets in both the US and in China, where there is obvious potential to develop high volumes and the opportunities for BanaBay are huge.”
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