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33% sales increase compared to last year

Premium bananas from Mexico drive growth in sales

A market report dated June 2 from US Foods noted that banana availability is good and quality is good. Organic bananas remain a challenge, though the summer months ameliorate the issue. Le Best Banana Supply has been a “small big company” in the conventional banana business for 50 years, bringing in their own fruit under the Carmelita brand from farms in Mexico. They also pack for some major and private labels.

Production lower for some growers
Normally this time of year Phillip Cuccerre says a lot of growers go through a tougher period. Their own farms have seen some lower production but at the same time he notes they don’t reduce specifications during tough growing conditions. “We’re still reaching our goal in packing what we want to pack as far as our premium (fruit),” he said. Scorecards in each farm seem to indicate yields are higher than average. Where the yield per stem (conversion) on average is 1.15, Le Best Banana Supplies are 1.64. He attributes it to the way workers are trained, certified and licensed in the critical process of cluster cutting, harvesting and packing. 

The beneficial process of using Pressurized Banana Rooms at our farm packing stations over Container shipment the advantage of quicker shipping. “Bananas are harvested and packed daily, within four hours placed in Pressurized Banana Rooms where the bananas are stabilized at 58 degrees for a min. of 8 hours before it’s shipped the next morning, arriving on average three and a half days to the US.” The industry standard on containers arrive some seven to ten days, so he believes they have an advantage of four to seven days earlier arrival, and all the fruit is dated. “We date each box when it was harvested.” What does this mean? “Premium bananas are no mistake,” said Cuccerre. “We’ve seen a 33 per cent growth in our U.S. sales from this time last year.” He’s been marketing into new territories through the southwest. Carmelita's close proximity to the US Market enables our family owned farms to harvest bananas at their peak maturity, while ensuring they arrives at the optimum freshness and taste. 

High numbers of produce consumed that’s from Mexico
One challenge he sees is that many North American markets aren’t familiar with what Mexico provides when it comes to fresh produce. “Many years ago they didn’t have the infrastructure to move products like they do today.” He noted examples of the high growth in avocados, grapes, strawberries – and bananas. “We’ve seen a huge effort on the part of Mexico to build more infrastructure to be able to move product faster to North America.” Also, if traditionally-minded buyers may have been concerned at one time that the bananas arriving on a trailer compared to a container from another country wouldn’t meet quality standards, Cuccerre says, that’s a fallacy.

Mexico grows quality produce
Bananas grown in Mexico deserve just as good a name as Guatemala or Honduras, Cuccerre says. On a map that outlines where Carmelita bananas grow illustrates just how close the area is to other banana producing regions in other countries. “It’s the same latitude as where Guatemala City is and Honduras. We’re on the same growing pattern as those countries that have been so successful in procuring fruit from independent growers.” 

Greening life of bananas
Extended green life is always a big key on bananas – companies look at various ways for controlled atmosphere, for instance similar to what’s been done for apples and onions: reducing oxygen in the storage/box to prevent fruit from advancing in age during transit on containers, others use gas once the fruit is stateside “to put the fruit to sleep”, according to Cuccerre. “We believe that anything that you do that’s unnatural alters the taste and drives up cost for retailers.” Our approach is to harvest mature fruit that arrives days ahead, giving customers the freshest banana available at an affordable cost.

There’ve invested in hydraulic watering systems that support monitoring soil moisture levels to ensure nothing is over or under watered – nothing is wasted in an effort to reduce their environmental footprint. He’s been doing bananas for about 30 years. “I’m by no means a specialist. I can always continue to learn.”

For more information:
Phillip Cuccerre
Le Best Banana Supply Co. Inc.
Ph: 832-559-7294