Looking for the ultimate snack that meets all of your requirements? One that consumers of all ages and tastes will find delicious, nutritious, convenient, affordable and sustainable? Try Barnana®. It is a whole banana in a bar, in bite sizes- an innovative solution, introducing an all-natural low processed, dehydrated banana to please the most discerning palates. It is organic and Kosher certified and it is raw as it is dehydrated under 40 °C (104 °F). But not only that: it is also vegan, glutenfree, rich in potassium, high in fiber, low in sodium, with no additives or preservatives and is non-GMO. Wow, anything else? Yes, it sells in a bag (not compostable yet, but working on it) with a suggested retail price of US$3.99 and is already available all over California and other states like Hawaii, and at top retailers’ shelves including Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market and Safeway.
And what is the big deal about a dehydrated banana? Bananas are sensitive and turn dark quickly when exposed to air. The great majority of consumers assume that this nutritious fruit needs to be eaten when the peel is totally light yellow, almost green. In reality bananas are ripe when showing little spots on the peel- it is then that they are much sweeter and easier to digest.
There have been many attempts to bring dehydrated bananas to the mainstream market, but the idea to eat dark dried bananas had not really taken off, until Barnana®. This was the constant negative argument that young Brazilian born ecopreneur Caue Suplicy faced in 2009 when he decided to introduce to the USA his favorite homemade snack that his father started making in Brazil as a hobby back in 1981.
Caue moved to California in 2001 as a professional triathlete and used to bring along the delicious banana snack from Brazil because he could not find any at the stores. “ I started sharing my father’s delicacy with friends and other athletes and everyone liked them. They provide the nutrients you need in the sport, are easy to carry and last for months, which is not usually the case with bananas.” The popularity of the homemade snack triggered an idea to develop the product further, resulting in the official launch of Barnana® at Expo West 2012. An immediate hit, large scale production took off and in just a year Barnana® could be found in over 1,500 large US retailers.
Sambazon introduced the Brazilian acai fruit to the US market, recording sales of 3.1 million USD in 2004 and over 25 million USD in 2008, 706% growth in three years. Vita Coco started the US craze for fresh coconut water and went from 20 million USD in revenue in 2008 to 100 million USD in 2011. Another Brazilian founded O.N.E coconut water that he sold later to Pepsi for 35 million US dollars.
Inspired by these success stories Caue embarked in the mission to provide the most delicious, nutritious and convenient banana based snack to the market, while improving the lives of banana farmers in Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. “The biggest challenge was to transform a Brazilian commodity that was sticky and not that convenient into a premium organic product that could be manufactured in large scale, preserving all the nutritional qualities”, says Caue.
Entrepreneur, endurance athlete and investor Matt Clifford and brand creator and entrepreneur Nicholas (Nik) Ingersoll joined Caue as Barnana® co-founders. The energetic team quickly attracted dynamic University interns to help promote and increase visibility of Barnana® via social media,at Campus,events and retail stores.“First we could only find organic bananas in Ecuador, now we are also buying from Peru and hope to start soon working with Brazilian suppliers as well”, says Caue. “We will be using over 1 million bananas this year and are forecasting to quadruple next year”.
And what percentage of the Barnana® price goes to the banana producers? In the food industry we have growers, manufacturers, brokers, distributors and retailers and they all need to be profitable, but what I can tell is that small organic growers can make up to 3 times more growing organic bananas than if they were growing conventional bananas and selling to big corporations,” says Caue.
The snack is well done. The team has mastered issues with texture, look, presentation and shelf life that many other entrepreneurs have not been able to solve. Selling the small bite size bars also helped to lower the cost of sampling. Caue knew that once people tried them they would want to buy them.
There is one aspect of the line that Caue and his team still needs to solve: packaging, a concern for almost every organic product seen in the market.
“I delayed the launch of Barnana® for over 6 months because I was determined to have compostable packaging. Unfortunately, the technology was not there yet, but this is a personal goal. Our cardboard boxes are made with recycled materials.”
Bananas have an extremely short shelf life so a lot of product goes to waste every day. Barnana®, with 18 months of shelf life, solves this problem so the company contributes to be more sustainability in that way. Bananas are the most favorite fruit for US consumers, according the US Department of Agriculture- so it will be interesting to see how this brand helps to realize that dried dark bananas can taste great too. Barnana® and its energetic team that includes dancing gorillas will be seen at different US events including Expo East/ BioFach America in Baltimore.