Turbana, the company representing the Colombian co-op of independent banana growers and the fourth-largest importer of bananas in the United States, has embraced the increasingly popular “farm-to-fork” concept by giving American consumers a chance to virtually meet the people who grow, harvest and ship their bananas via QR codes on the fruit.
“It’s a good opportunity for the consumer to really connect with the grower,” said Marion Tabard, director of communications for Turbana. “People want to know more about the origin of their food, especially in produce, and the most important trend is to be able to buy local. Obviously that’s not going to happen with bananas. But what we can do with this initiative is get the farm closer to the consumer.”
Each Turbana banana cluster will feature an innovative QR code that will show consumers the specific farm where the fruit was harvested. Consumers can learn about the farm’s sustainable initiatives such as rational use and recycling of water, low use and careful handling of agrochemicals and management of plastics and packaging. Better yet, they will get to meet some of the people involved in bringing those bananas to market.
Owned by two parent companies — Fyffes, one of the larger tropical produce importers and distributors in Europe, and Uniban, the co-op of Colombian banana growers — Turbana has positioned itself as an industry leader in social responsibility. A percentage of every box of fruit sold goes to support Turbana’s social foundation, Fundauniban. Through the QR codes, U.S. consumers will get to see where that money goes.
The move also benefits retailers by showing consumers that they partner with responsible suppliers, as well as providing an extra level of traceability that goes beyond the box right down to an individual cluster of bananas, Ms. Tabard said. And the program is available not only on Turbana’s labeled products but on the private-label bananas it packs as well.
“It’s a beautiful opportunity for our growers to showcase the efforts they make week after week to try to deliver a perfect piece of fruit,” Ms. Tabard said. “With bananas, the labor is so intensive, you have so many people working involved in every single step of the process, nothing goes through a machine — everything is done by hand. For our people, it’s an opportunity to have some window in the final market, and for us it’s a way to say thank you to retailers and consumers — because of them we’re able to make a difference in our farming communities.”
The program will be an ongoing effort and will eventually feature all 166 Turbana banana farms, Ms. Tabard said. For each and every farm, the personal story of a worker or community group whose quality of life has been positively affected through Fundauniban will be presented. Each story is an example of how each consumer’s purchase directly contributes to projects that affect the education, health, housing and community infrastructure for thousands of workers and their families and neighbors.
“What we do for the community is really at the core of our business,” Ms. Tabard said. “We want to provide personal examples of how someone working at a specific farm has benefited. It’s a win-win-win situation for the consumer, the retailer and Turbana.