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Organics Unlimited sees spike in organic banana sales

growgrow Mayra Velazquez de León co-founded Organics Unlimited in 2000 with a mission to provide North American customers with the best quality organic bananas and tropical fruits.

It’s a business she learned from her father, who brought the first commercially-grown organic bananas to the United States back in 1972.

“We grow, harvest to order and distribute organic tropical fruit including Cavendish bananas, plantains and coconuts,” Velazquez de León said. “Our farms and network of small growers in Mexico and Ecuador provides a year-round supply of the freshest, healthiest and best-tasting organic bananas.”

Furthermore, the Organics Unlimited and GROW label bananas are environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.

“We offer a fairly traded banana that retailers can trust, and consumers can believe in throughout the U.S., Canada and Japan,” Velazquez de León said. “We handle more than 30,000 cases of organic bananas each week and have 1,865 acres (nearly 755 hectares) of land available to accommodate current and future customer demand.”

COVID-19 has directly impacted all facets of business as consumers increased purchases of healthy items in preparation for quarantine. Numbers pointed to a specific interest in organic items that people can trust as organic growth continued to outpace conventional counterparts.

“As one large distributor regaled, ‘bananas were the toilet paper of the produce industry,’” Velazquez de León said.

In fact, they were flying off the shelves with more than a 20 percent increase in volume change compared to an increase closer to 5 percent for conventional bananas according to the Organic Produce Network’s Organic Produce Performance Report.

“The pandemic has increased awareness around the importance of nutrition for health as well as the importance of a decentralized local food system,” Velazquez de León said. “Thanks to our strong network of small growers, we have been agile in our response to this increased demand. We’re working closely with growers to maintain a reliable, as-local-as-it-gets supply chain with produce at our distribution warehouse within three days from harvest.”

Weather was a little bit of a hurdle this past winter, but things rebounded very well in the spring and the company’s organic bananas remain at peak, year-round production as the summer months arrive.

“The new challenge ahead of us now is to continue education on the true, fair price of organic produce, the additional costs associated with ensuring pesticide-free food and making sure our organic growers are fairly compensated for the invaluable work that they do,” Velazquez de León said. “By sharing the ‘true cost’ of food and educating consumers about what takes place prior to eating a banana, we feel energized about opportunities that exist in the year ahead.”

Organics Unlimited is enjoying its 20th anniversary throughout 2020 and its GROW program celebrates 15 years of existence in September.

“We have incorporated a new marketing campaign which highlights our 20 years of operation emphasizing fairly traded, organic bananas and small growers,” Velazquez de León said. “The current pandemic has highlighted our interconnectedness and the importance of supporting our communities. This is a belief that has guided us since inception, our GROW program has donated more than $2.7 million to support banana growing communities to provide a better way of life.”

This includes valuable community programs such as health clinics, educational scholarships, clean water, dental and vision care and environmental aid.

“During this time, we have also been able to deploy emergency funds to supply necessary personal protective equipment for clinic providers and have supported local efforts, which serve people affected by layoffs and reduced working hours,” Velazquez de León said.

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