This study carried out by Facts Figures Future in the name of the Trade for Development Centre aims to give an overview of the current and future availability of sustainable bananas in the assortments of major Belgian supermarkets. It focuses on fresh bananas. Plantains and dried bananas are not included (with the exception of import and export statistics).
In 2010, the average market share of organic products in Belgium in terms of total food products spending by Belgian households was 1.8%, compared to 1.5% in 2009. However, the market share differs per organic segment. The market share of organic fruit for example, was 2.7% in 20101. A major part of the research consisted of store visits to 1 or 2 branches of the twelve major Belgian supermarket chains, conducted in the period 22-24 November 2011.
During these store visits, the availability of bananas with a sustainable label in the assortment of each supermarket was calculated by counting how many of the available banana brands carried a sustainable label.
The definition of ‘sustainable’ can be interpreted very broadly. In this study, the term ‘sustainable bananas’ refers to fresh bananas that carry a sustainable label such as Rainforest Alliance, Max Havelaar/Fairtrade or bio labels such as EU organic or Agriculture Biologique (AB).
It was estimated that in 2009, 80% of worldwide banana export did not carry a sustainable label. 15% carried the Rainforest Alliance label, 3.0% a bio label and only 2.0% the Max Havelaar/Fairtrade label2. However, the situation in the assortments of major Belgian supermarkets was far better in November 2011. Store visits to several branches of the main Belgian supermarket chains in November 2011 revealed that around 53% of the bananas on offer carried a sustainable label.
Rainforest Alliance (http://www.rainforest-alliance.org) was the leading sustainability label for bananas in major Belgian supermarkets; more than 54% of the bananas carried that label. This can be explained by the fact that the majority of Belgian supermarkets offer Chiquita bananas, which all have the Rainforest Alliance label. The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour. The Max Havelaar/Fairtrade label (http://www.maxhavelaar.be) was with more than 33% the second most important sustainability label for bananas in major Belgian supermarkets.
The Fairtrade label ensures that producers in developing countries receive a minimum price for their products. Bananas with the Max Havelaar/Fairtrade label are estimated to have a market share of around 7.0% in Belgium3.
More than half of the bananas with the Max Havelaar/Fairtrade label also carried a bio label such as the EU organic label (http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/home_en) or the French Agriculture Biologique label (AB - http://www.agencebio.org).
Bio/organic labels focus on the production and processing of agricultural products that provide a guarantee of adherence to organic standards. Organic products are products that come from farmers who do not use chemical products or pesticides.
Share of sustainable bananas per supermarket
The average availability of bananas with a sustainable label in the assortments of major supermarket chains in Belgium is 53% (in November 2011).
Match and Smatch are the frontrunners in the availability of bananas with a sustainable label, offering a 100% sustainable banana assortment. This can be explained by the fact that these supermarkets only offer one banana brand, Chiquita, which has a partnership with the Rainforest Alliance.
Intermarché, Delhaize, Spar and Colruyt scored above average, with an availability of bananas with a sustainable label at 75%, 67%, 67% and 60% respectively.
Half of the banana assortments of Aldi, Lidl Carrefour and Cora are sustainable. Champion has an availability of bananas with a sustainable label at 14%. Makro does not offer sustainable bananas at all.
The Belgian market for sustainable bananas is expected to grow by an annual 10-15% in the next couple of years. However, Belgium still lags behind in the availability of sustainable products compared to countries such as the Netherlands and the UK.
Supermarkets will be an important player in raising awareness of sustainable bananas among consumers. Sustainable bananas are a good and consumer accessible way of increasing awareness about sustainability and fair trade. Supermarkets are increasingly discovering the benefits of this image of bananas and are using it as a way to attract more customers.
Delhaize, Lidl, Aldi and Carrefour have already taken the lead in making their private label banana assortment more sustainable. As Belgian consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability and fair trade, other supermarkets are expected to follow.
1. Bioforum Vlaanderen (2011)
2. Faitrade Labelling Organisation (FLO, 2009)
3. Interview with Laurent Verheylesonne, Max Havelaar Belgium, 2011.