March 11, 2009

Idea: Progressively Packed Produce

I go to the grocery store, and I see delicious-looking ripe bananas. I buy three of them, figuring I’ll eat them over the next day or two. Inevitably, I don’t eat as much banana as I think I will, and one or more of them ends up getting overripe and rotten before I have a chance to eat it. Into the garbage it goes.

Next time I’m at the grocery store, I think ahead. I’ll buy some not-yet-ripe bananas so I have them when I want them. Of course, inevitably I overestimate the ripeness and bite into a banana that isn’t ripe yet. Have you ever eaten an unripe banana? Gross. Another banana wasted.

Grocery stores should sell progressively packed produce. Instead of buying a bunch of bananas picked at the same time, you get a packaged bundle of bananas (or other quick-to-ripen food), each at a different stage in ripeness, with stickers on them telling you in which order you should eat them. Sure, there would be a premium attached to progressively packed produce to account for the back-end difficulties, but just think of the savings in wasted food.

[Original banana photo by Jason Gulledge via Flickr]


Interestingly, a similar idea was trialled in a UK supermarket a few years ago. You could buy a pack containing four ripe bananas and four under-ripe bananas. I believe this was aimed at families, hence the four at each stage. I don’t remember which supermarket chain did this, but I’ve not seen the concept for a while.

Ultimately there are two main problems that I can see. First, the warehouse space required to keep the bananas while they ripen to the required level would be hugely expensive. Second, the level of ripeness that people like in bananas varies enormously. I’m like you and thoroughly dislike under-ripe bananas, but the banana eaters I know have preferences that range across the entire banana spectrum, from green and crunchy to black at squidgy. It would be impossible to cater for all tastes with this scheme.

I don’t mean to sound negative - at least you’re having ideas, which is more than most of us bother with. I just decided to think about this one a bit, and decided it wouldn’t work.

I usually buy two nice firm yellow bananas for today, and a bunch of greenish ones that I think will be edible in the next few days. It works well, and i don’t have to pay a premium for them.

This doesn’t help any companies make extra money, which means that yet another great idea will be wasted thanks to capitalism.

Whenever you buy your own food there’s always the problem of either buying too much, or buying less but paying more per item. Especially with perishables.

We need some sort of food sharing scheme, whereby I buy a kilogram of carrots for 69p, then flog 500 g to you for 34½p… or some approximation expressible in actual coinage. ⅓ kg for 23p?

Alternatively, we could all just eat more bananas.

I love the idea, I’m having same problem with the bananas :)

You should be composting that wasted banana.

Or… since bananas are usually sold by the pound, just pick off the ones you want. There’s no law saying you have to take them by the bunch. Voila!

Try those green fresh-keeping plastic bags they sell in some produce sections. I thought they seemed a little gimmicky at first, but they now allow me to keep bananas at optimum ripeness for at least a few days longer. Before, I was forced to either refrigerate them (which seems to make them not delicious) or not buy more than one or two at a time.

In the UK I think Sainsbury’s or maybe Tesco does something similar to this. I know I’ve bought a pack with three ripe bananas and three green bananas in it.

Of course you can just wait until they are all a bit over-ripe, and freeze them. Perfect for smoothies, and then you don’t have to add ice. Yum!

This is the first bad idea I’ve come across on this blog. The great thing about produce is that it’s open, not packaged. Grocery stores have begun unnecessarily packaging products (pre-cut up vegetables and fruit in plastic containers, four apples on a foam plate-type thing with plastic wrap over them, etc etc) which contributes to extra garbage. Buying products which are not packaged is environmentally friendly, and buying over-packaged products is just sheer laziness.

That being said, just pick out four different coloured bananas and buy them. It isn’t that hard.

I’m with Sarah on this. Bananas already come labeled by color.

The browner they get, the sweeter they are in banana nut bread.

Overripe banana ==> make banana bread. No waste needed!

I agree 100% with Sarah.

a) 1st ‘bad’ idea I’ve seen on here.
b) Needless packaging.
c) Just pick and choose from the open selection of bananas - there’s nothing saying you have to take a complete bunch.

I don’t mean to be down on your idea, at least you’re having some :-)

This is the best idea ever.

Don’t listen to the haters. I would totally buy the progressive bunch.

A great idea, but you’re more likely to end up with something like this!

I think this is cute. But ultimately there’s a reason why Nature packages fruit the way it does; therefore, I’m more for packaging ideas that compliment Nature rather than deconstruct it.

If something that ripens/spoils naturally comes as a bunch/cluster, perhaps that’s nature’s way of reminding us to SHARE?

The idea is creative, but economically I really don’t think it can work, first because of the extra added-value per piece and second because some numbered bananas would tend to go faster than the others…

This is my personal opinion, btw did I mentioned I am a big bananas eater ? :)

Try this: just snap one banana off progressively ripe bunches until you have enough for a few days.

First, I have to say that, largely, I agree with the majority of folks who’ve already posted. There are too many concerns with logisic, waste (both packaging and effort), and preference.

Myself, I’ll eat a banana through the entire mid-stage of ripeness (which is to say from uniformly yellow with maybe a little residual green at the stem all the way to thoroughly speckled). It’s also not hard to just break off a more deeply bruised or overripe segment and toss just that bit in the compost, whilst enjoying the rest of the banana.

That said, I think another point or two need to be made. You suggest this for bananas and other quick to ripen fruit. First, bananas are one of the few fruits that come naturally bundled. Grapes do, too, but are less plagued by the ripening problem. It’s not all that difficult to individually select half a dozen peaches, avocados, or pears of varying ripeness.

Also, packaging fruit can actually impact the rate of ripening. Try putting two unripe peaches on your counter - one loose, one in a bag - and see what happens. Generally, the bagged one ripens more quickly. So, you might actually shorten the life of your fruit this way, even if the packaging came off as soon as it was home from the shop.

Anyway, I’ve gone on too long as it is. Love the site and (most of) your ideas. Keep up the good work!

I’ve wondered how inventory is managed for produce - how much waste is there? And, why not have different price points for different stages of ripeness. So, for example, if a store has some over ripe bananas, they should have clearance pricing for banana bread!

The trouble is that the bananas on the shelf at the store are usually only from one or two batches, so you don’t get much to choose from, timing-wise. Your best bet is to get a green bunch, and store them differently so they ripen at different rates. Try some of those bags mentioned above, perhaps.

Second problem is this: Lately I’ve been getting bananas that skip right over the ripe stage. They remain green while turning black, and keep the nasty unripe taste all the way until they’re mush. What’s with that? How can I tell, in the store, which bananas will ripen properly, and which will exhibit this behavior?

There’s a chinese grocery store near my place where they sell chicken like this. Live. Whole freshly dead. Cut up freshly dead. And cooked.

I copied this fruity idea and showed it to my wife. She thought it was hilarious but I did notice she started buying bananas this way. She now pulls a bunch off of each. Looks like several others do the same!

I think bananas emit ethylene while they are ripening, so unfortunately all the bananas will ripen quickly if there’s an old one in the bunch.

Ethylene pouch.

In India, we control ripening of mangoes/bananas by placing a small pouch of ethylene producing powder. Adjust the pouch’s placement, or quantity to get the ripening.

You can also take a green bunch, throw it in your flour bin overnight and voila Green turns Yellow!

Tesco in the UK already do this. They call them “Eat me, keep me” bananas. Not quite progressive but you get half green and half yellow.

Buy as many bananas as you like. When you end up with a bunch of ripe bananas that you can’t eat before they go bad, peel them and wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. Frozen bananas aren’t rock-hard, so you can still bite into them fairly easily. Unwrap it, holding the plastic wrap around the bottom, and enjoy. It’s like a banana popsicle that you can chew.

In fact, when I go to the store, I buy the largest bunch of perfectly ripe bananas I can find, and I freeze them immediately when I get home. I like the frozen bananas so much I don’t even bother eating them fresh any more.

This gives me an idea. How about a website where I could trade all my yucky #1 bananas with other peoples #3’s. #1’s actually make me gag. But a #3 is perfect. Doesn’t taste like a banana at all. Perfect!

Hmm. Now that I think about it. Who would send me a #3 when they could just wait a few days. And the #1’s that I send to people would only be enjoyed by those weird people who actually like ‘em brown. What’s wrong with those people?!

uhm, sounds like you just have to stop being a pussy