On Monday, I asked:
What is almost always the top-selling item in any grocery store?
The answer: bananas. Way to go, comment-poster tomsteuber!
What’s really wild is that tomsteuber is also correct that bananas are the top-selling item at Wal-Mart (as measured by dollar sales). And Wal-Mart, as you may or may not realize, is not only the nation’s largest grocery store, but a mass mechandiser, as well. So that means that even when bananas go head-to-head with Swiffers and lawn mowers and DVDs, they still win.
What is it about bananas? I called Wal-Mart to find out. Unfortunately, the man in media relations, who was very pleasant, said that the company didn’t have any “consumer insight” to share with me on that.
So I asked this man:
His name is Joe. I ran into him on the sidewalk this morning on my way to work. I asked Joe because at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning he was walking down the street carrying a bunch of bananas. No bag or anything.
Joe said he ate bananas for the potassium. Then he told me about how our bananas are dying. There was a show about it on NPR. If you care at all about bananas (and judging by sales at Wal-Mart, you do), listen to this broadcast. It’s fascinating — Terry Gross interviews a guy named Dan Koeppel who just wrote an entire book on bananas. I haven’t read it, so I can’t say how it stacks up to the best book ever written about a single fruit, but maybe someone out there has, and can fill us in.
Anyway, why bananas? I don’t know. It’s not just an American thing. As Dan Koeppel pointed out on NPR, bananas are best sellers all over the planet. People in Uganda, he said, eat 500 pounds of bananas a year, compared to 25 pounds here in the U.S. Somebody get those people a Wal-Mart!
The other night I brainstormed with my friend Sugi about what it is that so draws us to the banana. The packaging is pretty great. Doesn’t matter if the skin gets schmutzy, since you take it off (unlike an apple), and when you do, it doesn’t make a mess (unlike an orange). No matter what time of day it is, there is a good reason to eat a banana. On cereal at breakfast, brown bagged with a sandwich for lunch, as part of a banana split after dinner. Bananas are popular with lots of types of people. With babies, with athletes trying to avoid cramps, with anyone looking to make a fruit smoothie. Plus, they tend to be priced cheaply enough so that you think, “Well, I might as well buy the whole bunch of them,” until they go brown in two days and you have to throw them out and go buy more.
I guess at the end of the day, the banana is just an all-around great fruit. And now I kind of want one.