Del Monte starts selling bananas in `condom' wrappers

Priscilla Pollara
by Priscilla Pollara  |  21 March 2011  |   30 comments

Much to the annoyance of environmental activists, Del Monte has started selling bananas in individually-wrapped plastic bags, nicknamed 'banana condoms'. Has the company gone completely bananas?

Del Monte starts selling bananas in `condom' wrappers

They have evolved very little since the days of 2000 BC, the year they are said to have first originated on Earth.

And so familiar are we with their lunar-shape and radiant sun-yellow skin, that the banana is possibly one of the most instantly recognisable fruits we humans have the pleasure of eating. (With its high quantity of potassium and various antioxidants, it’s one of our healthiest, too). 

But a recent announcement from Del Monte Fresh Produce – a leading global producer and distributor of high-quality fruit - suggests that the much-loved, prehistoric produce is in for a bit of a cataclysmic change. 

Much to the annoyance of environmental activists, the company have decided to drag bananas kicking and screaming into the 21st Century by selling them in the US and UK in a starkly different way: in individually-wrapped plastic bags. 

Banana condoms

Del Monte's scheme hasn't exactly gone down a treat with British consumers - and it’s safe to say that the company won’t be best pleased when they discover their plastic bags have already acquired the rather unforgiving moniker of ‘banana condoms’. 

The translucent sheath comes with in-built 'CRT', or in other words, 'Controlled Ripening Technology'. 

The inclusion of this technology in their ‘coextruded polypropene wrappers’ will, Del Monte says, lengthen the shelf life of a banana by up to six days. 

Without artificial substances, the bag aims to achieve this by regulating the banana’s rate of respiration. 

Once picked, the fruit is sealed in the special plastic wrapper at its most verdant stage. From there, the casing protects the banana from dehydration and helps it ripen into its more common yellow look at a moderate speed. 

And if this wasn’t enough, Del Monte also claim that their clever innovation will leave the fruit - renowned for its ever-sweet flavour and compatibility in various recipes – tasting better, too. (Here at lovefood.com, we particularly like banana pancake recipes like Henry Dimbleby’s and Aldo Zilli’s.) 

An over-wrapped fruit 

All this talk of plastic blankets, however, and we all automatically neglect mother-nature’s kind hand in this crops’ creation.

Surely a banana is one of the very few existing fruits in the world that does not require a protective jacket? 

Let’s not forget that its waxy, durable skin has a fair few advantages of its own. 

Not only does it alert its consumer that its reaching the end of its life by browning and bruising its own skin, but the plentiful banana is a most convenient, heavy-duty fruit to pack as a snack in a bag.  

Its thick outer layer also means that when one peels it back in order to get to the fruit, they are assured that it is exclusive to them and that no grubby curious shoppers’ hands have been anywhere near it. 

And just to add two more points – the banana’s shed skin is easily disposable and it serves as great compost, too. Is there really any need to update this efficient do-it-yourself fruit? 

Environmentally bananas? 

As you might expect, the company is facing opposition from environmental activists. And one can’t fault their argument. For at a time when the whole world is being encouraged to cut down usage of unnecessary packaging, can it really be worthwhile concentrating so much time, effort and money on providing a perfectly-protected fruit with a second skin? 

Encased in its new packaging, Del Monte is launching their bananas as a ‘Natural Energy Snack on the Go’ – but I can’t help but wonder how this particular label is not true without its new plastic accessorising? 

Del Monte’s defence

Del Monte are quick to refute all this and in fact, it seems we have the wrong end of the stick. They see CRT bananas as a ‘green’ scheme. 

To start, they’ve made sure all the wrappers used in their packaging are recyclable

Secondly, they believe that their new banana is to go some way in tackling the problem of global obesity

How? Well since the nifty plastic bagging means that the fruit can take up its place alongside crisps, chocolates and various other plastic-containing snacks in school/hospital/shopping mall vending machines, they believe that consumers will soon start to eschew unhealthier options for the uniquely-styled ‘snack-wrapped’ banana.

In its cooler form, DM claim that the banana will be more in demand among children and busy workers than ever before. 

Most importantly, with the product able to stay fresher for longer, Del Monte expect to deliver less and hence lessen their fuel consumption.

Not just that, but that if there are fewer overripe, wasted bananas (in the UK alone we are said to throw out 1.6 million bananas every day), there will be an instant reduction in the greenhouse gases normally produced as a by-product of decomposing food in urban dumps. 

Is this just a marketing tool? 

While there’s always much hope to gain in the reduction of a large company’s carbon footprint, the cynical among us will not be so easily won over.

Hand in hand with the banana’s new look, let’s not forget, is a neat price hike. From a modest 16p per loose banana, the price of their ‘advanced’ product will set us back a steeper 62p.

Because of this, how can we be sure that Del Monte’s motive solely lies in promoting healthier eating?

With increasing frequency, supermarket fruit aisles manipulate customers by bagging fruit. In my opinion, the amassing of apples, tangerines, etc in loud, coloured wrappings, serves only to appeal to the eye of a passer-by who wouldn’t necessarily buy fruit.

And unluckily for most of us, we will most likely be paying more we would pay for the same number of loose items.

Tell us your views!

Are Del Monte truly extending the banana’s accessibility, or is their new range only a fad from which they will earn more money?

What do you think?

Also worthy of your attention:

Jamie Oliver’s Banana Tarte Tatin

Banana Muffins

Tom Aikens’ Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Banana Shallot Sauce