Minions tie-up set to rocket awareness of Chiquita bananas

Chiquita John Cockle director nordics, UK and Ireland
John Cockle, Chiquita's director for Nordics, UK and Ireland

More than 600 million stickers on Chiquita bananas worldwide will herald an enterprising link-up with the prequel to smash-hit movie Despicable Me and offer customers great merchandising potential this summer and beyond

The UK will be going bananas – Chiquita bananas, that is – about the Minions when the computer animated prequel to the blockbuster ‘Despicable Me’ movies is launched around the country at the end of June.

If anyone out there doesn’t know yet about the Minions – pesky little creatures that ‘evolved from single-celled yellow organisms at the dawn of time’ – then all will be revealed on the Chiquita stand at the London Produce Show and Conference 2015.

“It’s a real fun project and a great promotional opportunity for us and our customers,” says John Cockle, Chiquita’s director for Nordics, the UK and Ireland, as he explained the link-up with Universal Pictures, the producers of ‘The Minions’.

“Our involvement in this new movie follows on from the Chiquita brand being featured in Universal’s ‘Despicable Me 2’,” he adds.

“The Minions now have their own movie, which is sure to build on their already massive appeal and following across the globe in 2015.

“Our promotional activity around the movie includes over 600 million Minions stickers worldwide on Chiquita bananas, and with a range of 32 stickers there will be a lot of kids who’ll be enjoying collecting and playing with them.

“We’ve also got lots of Minions-branded items like water bottles, beach towels, backpacks and pens, so there will be lots of goodies for our customers to pass on to their customers and, ultimately, to the consumer.

“We are also in discussions with cinemas about some Chiquita activity around the launch of the movie, and that could be interesting in terms of future possibilities – cinemas sell popcorn and sweets, after all, so why not a healthy snacking product like bananas?

“With the work we are doing around the movie we are bringing something to the banana category that no-one else is doing, and as well as being a fun project we feel it can be highly beneficial to our business.

“We will have some examples of our Minions merchandising and giveaways at the London Produce Show, where we’ll be able to talk to existing and potential customers about how this promotion can help them in their sales efforts.”

On the go at the London show

As well as featuring the Minions on its London Produce Show stand, Chiquita will be displaying the company’s unique ‘Chiquita-to-Go’ offer and looking to build on its pre-eminence in the London wholesale and independent sectors.

National account manager John Manwaring says: “We have many Chiquita customers across London who are supplied via the wholesale markets: New Spitalfields, New Covent Garden and Western International.

“Our independent customers include companies such as Fruit For The Office, 4oC, Prescott Thomas, Gilgrove, Fruits of Lebanon and KPG.

“We deliver six days a week to these customers from our ripening facility in Sheerness, where we provide a first class service to our customers.

“So although you may not see Chiquita bananas in a Sainsbury’s Local or Tesco Express in London, you will see certainly them in convenience stores, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, offices, schools, hospitals – even in prisons.

“Our primary purpose at the London Produce Show will be to meet these existing customers and, of course, potential customers who will be in attendance.

“One of the products we shall be showing is our ‘Chiquita-to-Go’, a box containing nine Class Extra premium bananas and which uses unique technology in the packaging to give the fruit a longer shelf life.

“The flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide is controlled naturally by the packaging so that, once the pack is opened, the bananas each have at least three days of life left – which for a total of nine bananas is excellent,” says Manwaring.

“We feel there’s a real opportunity here. With a lot of the bananas you see in places like quick service restaurants and convenience stores the quality of the offer just isn’t there, so Chiquita-to-Go is a solution for customers to both reduce waste and increase sales.”

If it’s good enough for Europe and Scandinavia…

Chiquita has a strong brand presence in the UK’s wholesale and independent sectors, but not so in retail where Class I bananas – a grade below Class Extra – are universally the product of choice.

By contrast, many of the big European and Scandinavian retailers supplied by Chiquita not only sell Class I but also Chiquita Class Extra.

Cockle says: “Chiquita awareness is much higher in Europe and Scandinavia than it is in the UK because of the branding we are able to have over there in big retail outlets as well as independents.

“We’ve actually got TV adverts running at the moment in central Europe and across Scandinavia, and that’s something we would love to be doing in the UK if the brand had more visibility in the retail sector.

“Will the retailers ever introduce a banana at a premium? Well, if it’s happening in Europe it’s absolutely feasible and we need to build towards that.

“Perhaps a starting point could be retailers having a banana offer at the till – some retailers are trying to move away from less healthy snack items like confectionary, so a sweet banana would be ideal.”  

And in Central America…

Chiquita’s bananas available in the UK are grown in Costa Rica and Panama, where aside from its business operations the company has an on-going commitment to help reinvigorate the once ravaged rainforests and, through this work, protect endangered wildlife.

“There is a project in the Sarapiquí region of the country [Costa Rica],” explains Cockle. “In co-operation with other banana growers, with pineapple and cocoa farmers and cattle ranches, we are re-connecting rainforests and in the process allowing wildlife to prosper again in its natural habitat.

“As part of the programme we have installed camera traps to monitor the movement of wildlife, and we have also built rope bridges to enable the animals to get across roads that would otherwise be far too dangerous.

“It’s a living project which includes educational programmes in schools, farmer incentives for reforestation, botanical studies as well as wildlife monitoring – we’ve been involved for several years now and as a company in it’s in our DNA.

“I’ve been privileged enough to go out there and it’s incredible to see the way that the rainforests can grow and be re-connected – from a piece of flattened ground you can have trees growing to 30 feet high in just a few years.

“In the last 10 years or so around 50,000 trees have been planted. We are contributing to the conservation of the rainforest and it’s something we are very proud of.”

 
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