London Produce Show: One Banana targets UK retail expansion with ethical, sustainable offer

One Banana banana production line with happy worker

US-headquartered tropical fruit grower-distributor One Banana is seeking to expand its share of the banana market in the UK, where consumer appreciation for socially responsible and environmentally sustainable, high-quality fresh food resonates with the company’s year-round offer. Speaking from his New York office, the firm’s president, Robert Adams, enlightens PBUK on why One Banana, an exhibitor at The London Produce Show and Conference in June, stands out in a crowded marketplace dominated by major multinational banana corporations.

People first

“The UK is a market where our story seems to resonate well,” Adams tells PBUK. “We are a third-generation, family-owned, sustainable producer and distributor of bananas. The UK is a unique market that values a connection with the farm and where their food comes from. The UK also sets a high standard for quality, which coincides with our standards.”

Committed to the environment, its workers, their families and communities, One Banana is on a mission to be a better banana company that puts people first and makes a positive difference in society, hence its full name: ‘One Banana, The Better Banana Company.’ 

In a market dominated by global banana corporations, Adams believes this is what makes family-run One Banana stand out from the crowd, as it seeks to create change for the better — one banana, one person at a time.

“We have a deep commitment to the planet and the people in the communities where we do business,” explains Adams. “People are paramount to everything we do, say and believe. Generation after generation, we can honestly say that we are different in terms of how we grow our bananas, how we treat our people, and how we maintain, cultivate and protect the lands we own and harvest.”

At One Banana, Adams says the belief is that ‘One Banana Makes a Difference’; thereby explaining the meaning behind the company’s name.

“One banana can make a difference to consumers’ health, and we believe that by purchasing from One Banana, you also make a difference to the environment and to the communities where we grow our fruit,” he comments. “We truly believe that One Banana makes a difference.” 

Annually, the firm produces more than 22 million boxes of Rainforest Alliance-certified conventional and organic bananas. All of the fruit is grown on the company’s own farms located across 7,500 hectares in Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru; providing what Adams describes as “the highest quality and sustainably sourced bananas.” 

One Banana banana production management

UK goal 

Over the past two decades, the business has developed by selling under its own brand (One Banana) as well as retailers’ private labels in the United States and around the world, including Germany, Japan, China and Poland. 

One Banana is eager to expand its presence in the UK, where, at the moment, it sells fruit to Tesco, the country’s leading supermarket operator. “We do sell to the UK, and we want to do more business there, as well,” Adams reveals. “We have identified the UK market as one that values high-quality, sustainably sourced fruit.”

Currently, One Banana supplies the UK with its bananas grown in Guatemala and Ecuador. Adams also says the company can supply organic fruit from its farms in Peru. “We have the ability to expand in the UK, and we are eager to do so,” he states.

Setting its goals high, One Banana is seeking to grow its presence with UK retailers initially, but Adams says the company is open to other segments of the market as well, potentially the wholesale and/or foodservice sectors.

And when it comes to successfully increasing its UK-bound supply, Adams says One Banana is already well-prepared following years of experience.

“We have done business in the UK for many years, and we have a very strong and well-tested supply chain to deliver to the UK,” he explains, adding that the team is closely monitoring the situation surrounding Brexit too.

One Banana banana production with happy harvester

Making a difference

From a social and environmental perspective, One Banana believes it has value to add to the banana market in the UK, considering its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives are closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the United Nations. One Banana is also a member of The World Banana Forum and The Sustainability Consortium.

The firm operates a Living Wage programme across all of its production countries and claims to be the first company in Guatemala to research what workers actually need to earn in order to provide their families with food security and a healthy, active life.

To help reduce child malnutrition and improve academic performance in the areas where it produces bananas in Guatemala, One Banana also runs a Happy Families programme and a Nutritious School Snacks scheme. 

In Guatemala, One Banana has built a community facility in partnership with the University of Colorado in the USA — called the Human Development Centre — that features a private school, medical clinic and birthing centre for employees, their families and communities.

Thanks to the success of these and other efforts, the company says it has helped more than 60,000 people in 60 different communities across Guatemala and Ecuador, as well as its 8,000 employees and their families.

At a production level, One Banana also implements water efficiency and waste management schemes across its multiple growing regions, having adopted cutting-edge irrigation technology and environmentally friendly banana growing materials.

“Our family farms are all certified to the highest and best-known third party certifications, such as Rainforest Alliance, GlobalGAP and SCS Sustainably Grown,” Adams adds.

To ensure its high standards are maintained, One Banana provides an Ethics Hotline — a secure and confidential portal provided by external party Etictel — through which any concerns of unethical behaviour can be reported either by phone or through the website.

One Banana banana production harvesting with happy worker

Recognition from Tesco

On the back of these efforts, last year Tesco in the UK awarded One Banana the prestigious accolade of ‘Grower of the Year 2018’ as part of the retailer’s annual recognition of its top suppliers and growers.

The award credited One Banana for its best performance during 2018, in terms of product delivery, quality standards, food safety, certifications, and good manufacturing practices, which, in turn, helped Tesco to deliver on its promise to customers to supply and sell only the highest-quality bananas.

“We are very proud of this recognition, and we remain committed to continue offering a product that meets high quality standards, while retaining competitiveness, promoting sustainable production and being a benchmark in the agro-industry,” says Adams. 

One Banana history

One Banana originally started out as Agroamerica in 1958, only adopting its current name in 2014. At first, the firm grew a variety of crops in Guatemala, before dedicating to banana production and exports in 1976. Later, the firm entered Costa Rica and the pineapple trade in 2001. Having grown its banana business formore than 25 years, One Banana subsequently expanded to Ecuador, Peru and Panama, and now produces organic bananas in Ecuador and Peru too.

To gain more visibility as it strives to secure more business in the UK, One Banana is exhibiting at The London Produce Show and Conference for the first time on 5-7 June 2019. 

To attend the event, register here.

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