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DALLAS -- Knowing brown bananas drive its customers bananas, 7-Eleven Inc. yesterday began testing a new plastic wrap developed by supplier Fresh Del Monte Produce to keep single bananas yellow and firm for five days -- more than double the two-day shelf life for an unwrapped banana, USA TODAY reported.
"Our customers want yellow bananas -- not brown," said 7-Eleven CEO Joseph DePinto.
If it's a success at the initial 27 Dallas-area locations, 7-Eleven could roll out plastic-wrapped bananas to most of its 5,787 convenience stores by early 2010, the report stated.
Fresh Del Monte created the wrap, which slows respiration by keeping most oxygen and moisture out. The bananas -- green when wrapped -- will ripen more slowly.
For 7-Eleven, which is increasingly dependent on fresh food sales, this is no small matter. The chain will sell more than 27 million bananas this year. Selling yellow -- not brown -- bananas "is one small example of what we need to do to reinvent ourselves," DePinto said.
The move would give the chain a competitive advantage, Dean Dirks, a consultant in the $623 billion convenience store industry, told USA TODAY. "That's why just about everyone in business stays away from fresh fruit at the counter."
Not everyone applauds the effort, though.
"More plastic packaging is not a sustainable solution," said Jenny Powers, Natural Resources Defense Council spokeswoman. "There are better ways than adding a plastic wrapper around something that comes naturally wrapped in the first place."
7-Eleven recognizes the wrapper could be an environmental issue and has asked Fresh Del Monte to come up with a wrapper that's biodegradable. "We're working at identifying more sustainable packaging," Dennis Christou, marketing vice president at Fresh Del Monte, told the newspaper. He also noted by extending banana shelf life, it cuts the carbon footprint by reducing store deliveries.
Fresh Del Monte also is using the technology in new fruit vending machines in the Southeast. "Consumers tell us they'll eat more fruit if it's available," he said.
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