Austrian supermarket chain under fire for pre-peeled, plastic-wrapped bananas

Nadine Bells
Shine On
September 26, 2012

It calls itself a "common sense" grocery store, but German-owned Austrian supermarket chain Billa made a recent public relations gaffe which suggests the opposite.

The store introduced pre-peeled, plastic-wrapped bananas.

"That's right: Billa sells bananas in adopted cellophane-wrapped homes, mercilessly and prematurely torn from their natural (and perfectly fine) casings," TIME reports.

A photo of the bananas posted on Facebook quickly turned into a PR disaster, with environmentally conscious consumers attacking the obnoxious idea on Twitter and Facebook.

"If there is an easy-to-open ready-packed food it's the banana — peeling it only to pack it in environmentally unfriendly plastic is just madness," a spokesperson for Greenpeace tells the Austrian Times.

Billa quickly removed the image and apologized for the unnecessary product — the PR team called it a "one off" mistake that wouldn't happen again — which also included a styrofoam tray.

The picture of the bananas has since been removed from the Facebook page.

"But it failed to stem the tide of social media users that bombarded the page with abuse and threatened a boycott over the ban," the Austrian Times reports, adding that one social media user called selling bananas wrapped in plastic "the ultimate symbol of waste and the throw-away society."

It's easy to pick on Billa for the horrendous packaging idea, but it isn't the first company to sell bananas with additional packaging.

Last spring, Del Monte introduced individually packaged bananas, claiming that the bag contained "Controlled Ripening Technology" intended to extend the shelf-life of the banana by up to six days.

"Nature has designed out the need for bananas to have extra packaging even for sale at service stations. It's the same yellow wrapper that protects them on the supermarket shelf," Gary Porter, Environment Board of the Local Government Association, tells the DailyMail.

"Retailers and manufacturers need to cut back on packaging, not create more."

Del Monte's U.K. managing director James Harvey at the time offered a differing perspective on the packaging.

"Del Monte's new CRT packaging is designed to provide significant carbon footprint savings by reducing the frequency of deliveries and the amount of waste going to landfill. The packaging is also recyclable."

Not only was Billa's plastic-and-styrofoam packaging not recyclable, the peel-free strategy appears to only make the fruit more vulnerable to bruising.

Why can't we just leave bananas alone?

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