Packaging Gone Bananas?

A friend of mine took this picture recently at a Starbucks in Busan, South Korea.

My first reaction when I saw it was, “What the….?!” Why does a banana need a plastic package? Isn’t the banana already our most perfectly-packaged fruit? After all, a banana peel is relatively tough (certainly tougher than thin plastic wrap) and easy to open. It’s water-proof, and easily keeps dirt of the delicate fruit inside. What’s with the wrapper? Wouldn’t a Starbucks-logo sticker and a best-before date sticker be enough?

On the other hand, Starbucks isn’t stupid. Packaging costs money, and if there weren’t a good reason (at least from their point of view) to stuff a banana into a plastic wrapper, they wouldn’t do it. And they’re a relatively environmentally-conscious company: they are at least alive to environmental issues, and they know that big companies like themselves are liable to be prime targets when they make poorly-thought-through decisions.

Does anyone know the actual reason for this packaging? Is the reason, whatever it is, a good justification, in an environmentally-conscious age?

—–
(Thanks, Zack!)

7 comments so far

  1. Roughstock Jess on

    The biggest argument I’ve heard in favor of this kind of seemingly superfluous packaging is to minimize food waste by extending the shelf life of the product, which in turn allows for fewer shipments and therefore less freight impact.

    But in order to make sense, those numbers have to be run pretty specifically to account for store purchasing habits, locations, inventory turnover, etc. I’d like to see those numbers disclosed by these companies, because I have a hard time believing they’re really running them as specifically as they’d need to to get accurate results.

  2. Wayne Norman on

    You can buy special bags in the supermarket now that promise to extend the life of bananas. The question is: is this one of those super high-tech bags, or is it just a bag bag that their focus-group testing proves will increase banana sales?

  3. mkleberte on

    Could be one of those bags that chemically inhibits spoilage, also (germ avoidance) I have often wondered how many hands have handled the bananas in the supermarket and airborne bacteria.
    I use a plastic bag to take them through the check out counter

  4. Chris MacDonald on

    Wayne & mkleberte:

    Good points.
    I think those kinds of non-obvious answers are why I generally advise people not to react too quickly to corporate behaviour (or human behaviour, for that matter) that they find incomprehensible!

    Cheers,

    Chris.

  5. Chris Penfold (@packaging_pro) on

    You are right that no companies want to waste money on excess packaging, especially in these recessionary times. Bananas are notorious for their rate of spoilage and the affect of that on other fruit with which they come in to contact. Add to this the fact that these bananas were found in Korea, which has high humidity & temperatures, and you can start to understand why they may have been packed like this. Over-wrapping fruit in this manner can typically double the shelf life of a product, substantially benefiting the environment by avoiding food waste.

  6. Horner on

    I think the question was “does anyone know the actual reason…” but I can’t resist the chance to speculate either, and I’m going to guess that people like that they can take the banana with them without the chance it will get smooshed into their iphone by the other contents of their bag.

  7. Anne Connelly on

    As bananas ripen, they release carbon dioxide. Ironically, carbon dioxide actually retards the ripening process keeping the banana yellow longer. By wrapping the banana in plastic, it ensures the banana stays in a high carbon dioxide environment, instead of a high oxygen environment if it were sitting in the open air. This drastically improves the shelf life of the banana. Try it yourself at home…


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