business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

It’s said that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. If it’s true, E-Mart, a company in South Korea, better prepare to repave their walk.

E-Mart’s better mousetrap? Bananas.

Bananas are one of the most important items in any supermarket. They are among the most frequently purchased produce items and thanks to their nature, require regular repeat sales.

We all understand the basics of this. You buy a bunch of bananas (except at the few stores that sell them one at a time) and at first the entire group is some weak shade of green and not ready to eat. Then they begin to ripen to a wonderful yellow.

But here’s the problem, the entire bunch ripens at the same pace so unless you go on a banana-eating binge you quickly face the issue that the last members of the bunch go way beyond ripe. In my house, that’s cause for celebration because my wife makes a wonderful banana nut bread. Many others, I am sure, end up junking the last few or facing a weak banana-eating experience.

But not customers at E-Mart.

As Inc. magazine recently reported, E-Mart has solved the problem. The company sells a “One a Day banana” pack that includes bananas at different stages of ripeness all in the same container. The consumer thereby gets bananas reaching ripeness on different days, so they can be consumed at the perfect time for each one.

Obviously, there are some issues to that strategy, as Inc. notes. First, it is going to require some significant labor to assemble the packages of staggered ripeness. And while the solution may produce less food waste (and sadly, less banana bread) it means more plastic waste.

We have to hope that E-Mart is properly merchandising the new package to explain to shoppers the thinking and benefits of the new package so that the genius of the solution is recognized and that might even lead to an ability to charge a higher price to offset that labor cost.

We have a fondness here at MNB for “eye openers” or any ideas that just make you pause. Based on that, I’d have to call the One a Day banana pack an eye popper for identifying a problem so common to every shopper and solving it in such an easily explainable way. It’s the kind of innovative thinking we should all applaud and possibly mimic.

It might not be a perfect solution, but it’s a really creative attempt at getting there. As the Inc. reporter wrote, “If I lived in Korea, I’d take one look at E-Mart and think, ‘There go some thoughtful people whose ideas aren’t bananas.’”

Wouldn’t we all want our shoppers saying that about our stores?

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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