My Dad sent this one in; it comes from Andy the Hobo Traveler's blog. Andy discovered the single-serve fruits at a 7-11 in Manilla; each banana costs about a quarter. "I can purchase one banana without them getting angry," Andy writes. "I am single, not married, to buy bananas even in the market is annoying, they do not like me to rip off two or three, and one is totally a great way to get them annoyed."
Single bananas for single buyers isn't all that new, but marketing them like candy bars is. Chiquita has just begun doing it in the U.S. We've got plenty of them at convenience stores here in Los Angeles, priced at about 75 cents.
Whether here or in Asia, there's more to this than just a simple in-store display. A considerable amount of technology and labor is required to sell bananas by the piece - most of it concerned with consistency at the display case. The bananas need to ripen at the same speed; they need to be sized the same. The process begins at the plantations, according to a March, 2007 story in the Boston Globe: "At Chiquita's packaging plants, workers hand pick the bananas heading to convenience stores and other non grocery shops for their ideal size, color, shape, and ripeness." The package is the true innovation. The fruits are boxed at the plantation; the boxes are covered in aspecially-developed plastic membrane that regulat es the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide to the fruit. (A consultant to the company who helped design the packaging calls the material "Gore-Tex for bananas.")
Only one breed of banana in the world could be sold this way, and that's the consistent, easy-ripening, easy-growing Cavendish. If you look at the Dole box from Manilla, you'll see that the name "Cavendish" is actually included. It makes sense to name the breed in the Philippines, because the dozens of other varieties of the fruit are available to the general public (think of our diverse selection of apples: Fuji, Granny Smith, Delicious, and a dozen more.) Chiquita's U.S. displays don't need to name the variety, because here, the Cavendish is the banana - the only banana. (Since we can't grow the fruit locally, as many countries in Asia do, we need a banana that can ship well and ripen easily. Only the Cavendish, out of hundreds of banana varieties, can accomplish that.)
No matter where the fruit comes from, is sold, or how it is identified, one constant remains: danger. Cavendish plantations in the Philippines are already being struck by Panama Disease, the fungal blight that threatens the world's entire banana crop. The blight has yet to hit our hemisphere, but there's little doubt that it will - and when it does, it won't kill bananas one by one, as they're now being sold. Entire plantations - and nations of plantations - will be stricken.
images from Andy the Hobo Traveler.