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Behind the Banana-versary: A 125-Year Promise

Behind the Banana-versary: A 125-Year Promise

Few words are as widely recognized as “banana.” The fruit is a staple in many adolescent memories as our parents sought to help us pronounce vowels, or as a lovable monkey journeyed eventfully through a cartoon world with the delicious yellow fruit in his hand.

When a category holds this much sentimental weight, being an operation that brings it to the produce department—and thus, to the hands of happy consumers—is an achievement that cannot be disregarded. To do so for 125 years is an attainment even harder to overlook. 

“DOLE® is one of the original healthy-eating, healthy-living brands, as well as the name behind the world’s most popular banana and one of the most-purchased grocery items in history. We knew our 125th year in the banana business needed to be something special,” Bil Goldfield, Dole Food Company’s Director of Corporate Communications, tells me when I ask how the producer plans to celebrate this momentous occasion. “In a sense, Dole’s iconic brand name belongs to everyone, so we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to participate.” 

Since first importing the fruit from La Ceiba, Honduras, Dole has become synonymous with bananas, setting out to forever change how consumers experience this delicious and nutritious fruit. 

“As we prepared to celebrate 125 years of innovation and our commitment to growing, processing, and distributing our top-quality bananas responsibly, we sensed the opportunity, and even the responsibility, to invite others into the celebration,” Bil continues. 

Dole’s North American marketing team has been hard at work planning the Dole 125th Banana-versary for months, seeking to involve banana lovers at both the consumer and retailer levels, as well as the employees at its 13 corporate, port, and regional offices across the United States. In other words, a massive legacy deserves a massive celebration. 

So what comprises this 12-month banana extravaganza? Everything from a newly established Dole Banana Hall of Fame to the Ultimate Banana Cookbook, as well as a national banana survey and some especially ripe social media activations. Dole also celebrated the milestone with its “125 Ways to Be Bananas” series, sharing original tips, tricks, and engagements on the brand’s social media channels. In April 2024, the banana behemoth planned and executed the biggest National Banana Day celebration in its history, including 10 days of contests, charity engagements, city proclamations, social media activations, Bobby Banana appearances, volunteer events, digital downloads, and giveaways spread across Dole offices from coast to coast.

“In a sense, Dole’s iconic brand name belongs to everyone, so we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to participate.”

Bil Goldfield, Director of Corporate Communications, Dole Food Company

“With bananas at more than 90 percent household penetration in the United States, our focus is on increasing retail purchase frequency and consumer consumption through new usage ideas, recipes, and dayparts,” Bil explains. “We continue to introduce compelling dishes that position bananas as more than just a breakfast or lunch staple. Our new Dole Ultimate Banana Cookbook offers classic banana-themed entrée, side dish, and even cocktail and mocktail recipes that push the boundary of what is possible and expected with America’s most popular fruit.” 

If there is anyone who knows how to harness the massive power of bananas, it’s Dole Food Company. In 1899, Salvador D’Antoni and Joseph, Felix, and Lucca Vaccaro pooled their life’s savings in New Orleans, Louisiana, and began importing bananas from La Ceiba. Since then, the company’s emphasis has been on quality, giving its retail customers what they want, and what will help grow their businesses. When simply exporting fruit wasn’t enough, the four entrepreneurs started operating steamships, growing their own fruit, and competing for the ice needed to ship bananas to a hungry and curious world. 

This spirit of innovation and resourcefulness has continued ever since.

“In Dole’s effort to make the world a healthier place, we have become the preferred partner in delivering premium-quality bananas. That success is largely due to our people, philosophy, structure, and service,” Bil imparts. “Dole controls its supply chain with a dedicated fleet calling on multiple ports with sourcing from several countries. With that agility, flexibility, and a responsive and dedicated account team, Dole customers can count on consistency and reliability.” 

Another strategy that has made Dole successful in bananas—and everything the supplier grows, for that matter—is its commitment to the long-term vision. As an extension of The Dole Way, the brand’s three-pronged pledge to protect people, food, and nature, Dole remains focused on the communities that help produce its fresh fruits and vegetables and on treating each employee with openness, candor, and respect. 

"We will continue to develop our programs in water management, climate change, waste reduction, employee social equity, and health and nutrition to ensure another 125 years of DOLE Bananas.”

This philosophy aims to make Dole an employer of choice where its farms are located, as the company works closely with its farmers and associates to provide opportunities that enrich their lives and give them confidence to succeed. After all, 125 years cannot be achieved without the help of a powerful, dynamic team concentrated on driving sustainable growth.

This focus on its operations, workforce, and service has allowed Dole to ensure a steady stream of high-quality, price-stable fruit for its retail partners and their shoppers regardless of pandemics, inflation, supply-chain challenges, and other hurdles.

“We’re proud that The Dole Way has set a high sustainability standard within the produce industry and beyond,” notes Bil. “This evolving initiative demonstrates the plans we have for the future and the targets, milestones, and timelines we have set to achieve our objectives. We will continue to develop our programs in water management, climate change, waste reduction, employee social equity, and health and nutrition to ensure another 125 years of DOLE Bananas.”

This commitment to upholding the sustainability standard and remaining on the leading edge when it comes to effective operations stems from one simple, integral value. 

“As we have said before, being a responsible company is not just second nature; it is our business,” Bil emphasizes. 

Dole seeks to ensure that it treats the very earth from which it harvests its produce with all the attention it so rightfully deserves, putting back much more than it takes out. The Dole Way will remain a pillar as the company continues to focus on being an important pioneer of change.

History is being made in our industry every single day. 

As we honor trailblazers like Salvador, Joseph, Felix, and Lucca, another constitutive foundation is being built by the current leaders of Dole Food Company. In the next 125 years, future generations will once again look back, cherishing the brand for continuing to uphold such a commendable promise. 

Behind the Banana-versary: A 125-Year Promise