Food by VICE

Walmart Is Exploiting Our Love of Bananas to Lure Us Through Its Stores

They are experimenting with ways to use bananas to lure people to the back of the store, so they’ll shop more.

by Alex Swerdloff
Feb 20 2016, 9:00pm

Photo via Flickr user design-dog

At Walmart, it's all about the banana. You may associate the world's largest retailer with toys and tires and the occasional pleather thong, but Walmart is also the largest grocer in the US. And their bestselling product is bananas. Seriously.

The retailer sells $200 billion a year in groceries, and the grocery sector constitutes 56 percent of its total sales. Bananas make up a large part of that revenue—Walmart is selling 1 billion pounds of them a year.

Needless to say, the business people at Walmart are onto the supremacy of the banana, and are trying to work the tropical fruit to their advantage. In a superstore in Rogers, Arkansas—the home state of Walmart, of course—they are experimenting with ways to use bananas to lure people to the back of the store, so they'll shop more.

As part of the revamping of their superstore strategy, Walmart said in a blog post that they have decided to put "berries—a growing category—in the front of the department." OK, berries are cool. But the big guy—the banana—is the heavy marketing artillery; Walmart says they are putting bananas "toward the back to help lead customers through" the store.

So it's not electronics or video games or even bacon-scented pillows that are the draw at Walmart—it's bananas.

Why bananas, you ask?

According to Dan Koppel, the author of Bananas: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World, bananas are the cheapest fruit in the US, even though they are usually grown thousands of miles away in Latin America. They outsell apples and oranges combined, and their ascendancy owes much to a pretty nefarious combination of corporate strong-arm tactics and Western hegemony: "Over and over, banana companies, aided by the American military, intervened whenever there was a chance that any 'banana republic' might end its cooperation," says Koppel.

Walmart attributes our national love for bananas to a less, shall we say, Machiavellian source. Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told Business Insider, "Customers love bananas because they're an easy, healthy food to pack and eat and very affordable. Kids also love bananas, and so a lot of customers are probably thinking of their children."

In any event—whatever the cause of our national love for bananas—Walmart knows we will search the store for them. So the next time you are lured to the back of a Walmart looking for your banana fix, understand that this is all part of a plan to get you to spend money.

And you can thank Big Banana for your—and everyone else in America's—love of the yellow-peeled fruit. Or not.