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?


Zac Martin said...

Wow, what a great case study. Would love to know whether they had a hand in it, if so... genius.

Killer first post mate and welcome to the blogosphere!

Daniel Oyston said...

Thanks Zac - deep down I kinda hope that they have had a hand it. While it probably is borderline unethical I reckon it is a masterstroke. If not, then they have just got lucky.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan, I'm with you, I love the idea that a marketing company is behind it. I guess time will tell, and as Zac says, welcome aboard!

Stan Lee said...


Surely in business as in life you often have a hand in making your own luck?

Daniel Oyston said...

@ Stan - Absolutely. I just wonder on this occasion whether they hand a real big hand in their 'luck'. In other words, they created the situation so there is no luck at all - just a carefully crafted and executed plan.

Maybe I just like a conspiracy theory too much!

Josh Strawczynski said...

I image that marketers did not conspire create the whole fad, but I would not be surprised if they gave ti momentum. A little PR here and some promotion there and all of a sudden YoYo's are cool again...your case study is no different.

My favorite ad for increasing demand is the wheatbix catch line something along the lines of "how many can you do?", force people to eat more and sell more packages.

Daniel Oyston said...

@ Josh - good point about the Yo-Yo. Reminds me of when I was in a surf shop last month and noticed Le Specs are back! Looks like they just put excess stock in the cupboard for 15-20 years until a different generation came through … they haven’t even changed the case they come in!

Matt said...

Hi Daniel, welcome to blogland, and a great first post. Considering that bananas aren't really grown in Japan I'd be pretty surprised if a company was behind the fad. Getting models on board would also be pretty expensive, so I'm guessing someone just got lucky!

Adam Ferrier said...

Someone just got lucky. No doubt. However, what a fantastic first blog! Hearing stories like this make the prospect of engineering social (as in mass behaviour) change more tantilising.