Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Have You Seen Any Bananas?

Heard of the banana diet? It is the latest diet craze and in Japan it is huge.

It started in March and the basic concept is that weight loss can be achieved if you only eat room temperature bananas and water for breakfast. The other basic diet rules are then that you can then eat whatever you want during the day but you can’t eat anything after sunset.

It has grown in popularity because it has been heavily featured on tv in Japan, has been endorsed by Japanese models, has been covered by one women’s health magazine, Fytte, three months in a row. There has even been 3 books written about it.

The result: Japanese consumers can’t buy a banana for quids (or Yen).

On the net, the overwhelming majority of stories about the diet make mention of the shortage of bananas in stores.

Telegraph.co.uk reported that as a result of the diet, sales of bananas at Life Corp, a major supermarket chain, increased 70% in one week while a department store in central Osaka also reported sales up 50% from last year and regularly selling out by early afternoon.

The question is: Is this just another crazy diet fad or the marketing genius of banana suppliers?

That’s right, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the work of the banana suppliers to deliberately create a increase in demand for bananas … and we all know what happens when demand is higher than supply – that’s right, the price goes up.

Why do I think that it is the work of clever marketers?

Well, Japan has a history of latching onto crazy diets so it is the perfect market for such a plan. Time.com provides a quick history of fad diets sin Japan. “During the 1970s, there were similar runs on black tea fungus, oolong tea and konnyaku; during the 1980s it was baby formula, banana and boiled egg; then, in the '90s, came apple, nata de coco, cocoa and chili pepper; and during this decade black vinegar, carrot juice, soy milk, beer yeast and toasted soybean flour (kinako). Last year's fermented soybean (natto) diet emptied supermarket shelves”.

A spokesman for Dole Japan Company, the largest banana importer in the country, told Japanese media "It's the first time bananas have been quite so scarce". The result has seen Dole increase banana imports to Japan by more than 25%.

An it is not easy for bananas harvesters to meet the sudden spike as it takes 10-15 months to harvest them.

At the end of the day, banana prices have risen 20% and I bet Dole Japan Company are kicking back eating sushi and sipping saki as they toast their marketing success.

What do you think? Are Dole Japan Company just the lucky company benefiting from the crazy diet fad or do you think that they have played a hand in the whole thing?