Go Bananas Case Study: Mankato, MN Gets Fair Trade Bananas in Local Supermarket

Courtney Lang September 10, 2012
Are you trying to rally the local supermarket you patron to carry Fair Trade bananas, but need some help with tactics?  Mankato Fair Trade Town Initiative in Minnesota is one campaign that has successfully gotten Fair Trade bananas in to a local supermarket.  As part of the Go Bananas for Fair Trade Initiative we interviewed Mankato organizers so that we could share with you how  they reached success.   Here are some pointers from the field!

What was your goal and why bananas?

The general absence of Fair Trade produce in Mankato, MN presented a new, wide target for the Fair Trade campaign in the period after the Fair Trade Town Declaration in October 2011. Bananas lead the way in supermarket produce sales, yet many people know nothing of the conditions of much banana production and regard the availability of cheap bananas as the norm.

What was your strategy?

We focused on the supermarket where we had the highest level of access (i.e. the Store Director). We made a direct approach to him after having successfully advocated over some months that his store broaden the availability of Fair Trade sugars.
What are 3 tips for a group who wants to get Fair Trade Bananas available in their community?

  1. Build a positive relationship with the Produce Manager in your friendliest supermarket and, if possible, with the Store Director.
  2.  If the store is part of a chain, write to the HQ to say that you are advocating for Fair Trade in your area and want to know about the company’s “sustainability” commitment and the person responsible for developing the agenda. Then contact him or her and ask for more details.
  3.  Provide appropriate information about the product for which you are advocating and offer to help with a promotion of the product when it arrives.

Mankato town initiative after a town parade where their Fair Trade float strolled with the rest.

What did your campaign achieve?

The store began to stock Fair Trade bananas at Easter 2012 and has seen sales steadily grow, reflecting previous experience with organics. Fair Trade pears followed as well as blueberries and mangoes when available.

How did you make it positive and engaging for all?

Helping the Store Director and his Managers, over a period of a couple of years, become aware of a constituency of shoppers committed to Fair Trade.

  1.  Strengthening relationships with the Store Director and Produce Manager.
  2. Responding to an invitation to give a presentation to the senior staff about Fair Trade and Fair Trade Towns in general.
  3. Keeping up contact with senior supermarket staff.
  4. Continuing to advertise the existence of Fair Trade bananas and other fruit through the Fair Trade Town

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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.