Powered by insights, Equifruit’s savvy sustainability battle is winning ground in the banana wars | Maru Group


By Stephen Brockway, Chief Research Officer, Maru/Matchbox UK | November 18, 2021

Battle on the banana front

Fair trade has had a lonely existence. For decades it struggled alone to bring better working conditions, higher pay, and hope to artisans and farmers battling poverty. It has a new life partner now, sustainability, and together, they are making progress.

While consumers are aware of some fair-trade products, such as coffee, many have no knowledge of the fruit industry. Bananas are part of a complex supply chain: produced in tropical climates, sold to large multinational corporations, transported over large distances to be sold in grocery chains or family shops. The corporations are concerned with their profits, not wage equity for the producers.

Equifruit, a Canadian company importing bananas into the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, saw the need for ethically sourced bananas and fair treatment of farmers. Their challenge was spreading the fair-trade message for fruit.

The say/do gap

I spoke with Kim Chackal, Director of Sales and Marketing for Equifruit, at the We Better Behave! event to learn how they are disrupting the market with their 100% Fairtrade promise.

While many consumers aspire to make sustainable choices, at the point of sale, they often don’t see past their own grocery cart. This is a say/do gap.

Equifruit also saw this gap with retailers who believe that concern over fair trade is a niche market. Through their research, Equifruit uncovered that though sustainability is important to consumers, they don’t understand how fair trade applies to the banana industry. Their challenge was increasing their sales of a sustainable and fair-trade product, which inherently came with a slightly higher price, in an environment where consumers want cheap bananas, because that is all they have known. The key is ongoing education, without making them feel guilty. Equifruit demonstrates to consumers and retailers that fair trade is still affordable for everybody.

Importantly, they discovered the ideal target audience for this messaging was millennials and Gen Z, which in separate research, Maru also found were the two groups which had the greatest apprehension about sustainability. Equifruit directed their messaging to them. This included refreshing their website so that it went from blah to appealing, and social media posts that connected with consumers on an emotional level.

Maru’s research into sustainability using our Feel, Behave, Think model for behavior provides insight into this motivation. The “ideal” emotional signature illustrates that to connect with consumers wanting to make smart choices, brands need to show care and creativity in how they prepare products. They also need to demonstrate they have the skill and desire to provide sustainable options. This gives consumers the confidence to change their behavior-something which Equifruit demonstrates with passion.

Emotional signature: ideal

Connecting through these emotional benefits will provide the confidence to consumers to make a positive change in their lives, but with genuine benefits rather than feeling as though they are trading off ease or efficacy. Brands that achieve this will benefit from the “content” emotion which is a deep sense of well-being through achieving perceived success, priming future behavior.

Through using smart-text analytics, we can bring to life these emotions from verbatim comments given by consumers after completing their collage of images.

May I have your attention?

The best way to form an emotional connection with consumers is through human stories — those of the farmers and how their lives have changed positively. These resonate the most with people, because they address important concerns about companies treating workers ethically and sourcing materials in a sustainable way.

Equifruit uses comedy and impossible statements on packaging to get people’s attention, have them pick up a bunch, and read the label. Some of the statements they have used on their packaging are:

  • The only banana on 5G.
  • The only banana to binge watch.
  • The only banana to reverse aging.

Further on it may say, “Everyone goes bananas over next gen technology, but going bananas over bananas that pay farmers fairly for hard work, crickets. Get with the times, this is the only banana you should buy.” On their produce cases which retailers use, they have that same message: The only banana you should buy.

These marketing strategies were tested with consumers. Initially, they thought it would elicit guilt. Instead, the reaction was true curiosity. One respondent, a student, said he had never had a banana company tell him what to do. He bought bananas on autopilot. Which reflects a simple truth: people don’t think about how their food is produced. Equifruit is trying to stop people in their tracks; to make them think about where their food comes from; to discover the Equifruit brand, go to their web site, and learn what fair trade means. They want to disrupt the industry by having people make conscious, sustainable food choices.

They called out their target audience on the ways they waste their time on social media, binge-watching TV programs or streaming services, and following internet trends. They inserted themselves into pop culture conversations to be relevant. Fair trade bananas are relevant, something they’ve woven into their online presence, especially Instagram, with funny and captivating posts. This engagement has created and built brand loyalty.

A secondary concern of consumers is they want to change, but it may be cost prohibitive.

Equifruit is anticipating those feelings and addressing them. Their website decries child labor with the statement, “No ‘bring your kid to work’ days.” Bananas are a delicate fruit, transported over large distances. Delays can result in their spoiling. These expenses are all incorporated in the price, but banana prices have not even been adjusted for the cost of inflation in half a century. Someone is paying for that — the farmers. Chackal cited how consumers buying bananas for $1.29 per pound versus $0.99 per pound is affordable. This is a small difference amounting to $10 more per year but it sustains impactful change. It’s paying off; sales are increasing. Longo’s was awarded the Impact Award on Sustainability from Canadian Grocer magazine for stocking Equifruit bananas.

They also make a monetary commitment for social improvements. For each Equifruit case sold, they pay farmers $1 US to spend on community projects from school upgrades to new health clinics. Without even donating to charity, consumers can improve the lives of financially challenged people, and that leads to a lot of feel-good emotion.

What advice would you give?

Equifruit saw success by taking their brand’s unique selling proposition (fair trade) and developing a campaign that connected emotionally with consumers breaking the say/do gap. They did this in a way that our research has revealed is effective in bringing behavioral change; by aligning with the emotional needs consumers have in sustainability. They made it easy and gave them confidence to make the smart choice by connecting with a brand that is taking creative steps to make a difference. Consumers will act if you connect emotionally on their deeper needs, rather than only obvious and rational price and availability factors. A brand or service and its consumers are like two pieces of a puzzle that fit perfectly. If your marketing activities aren’t working, be prepared to make impactful changes to reach your target audience so that you click into place.

Watch Kim Chackal discuss how Equifruit used powerful insight to drive a winning strategy while furthering their fair-trade agenda. Available now on demand at https://webetterbehave.live/agenda/.

Originally published at https://www.marugroup.net on November 18, 2021.



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