Mike Port is the chief executive of Port International, the Hamburg-based importer which recently took up the challenge of tackling climate change. Tomorrow marks exactly one year since the company started marketing CO2-neutral bananas under a new brand called Be Climate, a move that Port believes brings new value to a product that is renowned for its slim margins and frequently used as a weapon of choice among retailers engaging in price wars.
“Every Be Climate banana has a QR code, so the consumers with their mobile phones can find out very easily that, by buying one kilo of bananas, they have compensated 940g of CO2,” he explains during the latest episode of Fruitnet’s conversation series Fruitbox. “But it’s not only showing them how much CO2 they balance. It also shows in a very transparent way what they have done with it.”
Port accepts that no single company can fight climate change on its own. “We cannot do everything but we have made a start, showing consumers and our partners that we have projects where we reduce emissions and for the rest we are balancing by investing in offset projects,” he argues.
So are retailers changing their attitude to the banana market? Are they buying into the idea of the fruit’s potential added value? The answer, says Port, is certainly not all of them, although he notes that Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize recently replaced its premium range with Be Climate and subsequently sold more bananas under the brand.
“Covid hasn’t helped,” he admits. “I see a tendency towards the race to the bottom and who has the most competitive bananas on the shelf, because consumers obviously are quite sensitive and they like to buy cheap bananas. In the future, they are afraid about what’s going to happen. So unfortunately the price fighter will [still] play a role. However, I believe that there will also be a lot of consumers who will focus on values and who are prepared to pay for quality, organics, fair trade and also lately for stopping climate change.”
The important lesson, he notes, is to build a narrative around the value you are trying to secure. “If you can put a story behind a brand, or a special quality, or a new variety, then there will be consumers and supermarkets giving you a chance with this product, because it sells.”
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