KANSAS CITY — A trend bearing fruit in new snacks, sweets and breakfast staples is banana. The flavor presents a ripe opportunity for product developers, said Jeanne Meeder, director of industrial and consumer products R.&D. at Wixon Seasonings and Flavor Systems, St. Francis, Wis.
“We are seeing a rise in banana, on the flavor side, on the seasoning side and on the baking side,” Ms. Meeder said.
The trend is driven in part by health and wellness, she said. Consumers may associate the fruit with nutrition, even if a given product isn’t necessarily healthy.
Another aspect of banana’s appeal, she added, is its compatibility with other flavors. Ms. Meeder said she has seen more interest in such traditional combinations as banana walnut and strawberry banana, as well as indulgent pairings of banana with chocolate, rum or caramel. Banana cream pie, banana split and bananas foster also are adding tasty twists to new treats, including Chips Ahoy! limited-edition chocolate banana cookies from Mondelez International and banana split Twinkies snack cakes from Hostess Brands. Ice cream products launched this year include Pierre’s Signature Banana Fudge Chunk, featuring banana ice cream with walnuts and fudge chunks; Three Twins Banana Nut Confetti, which blends organic banana ice cream with walnuts and chocolate; and Nestle’s Häagen-Dazs Banana Rum Jam, which has banana, rum and lime swirled in vanilla bean ice cream.
Ingredient applications featuring banana flavor include snack seasonings for chips and popcorn, assorted dry baking mixes, and cream cheese and dip seasonings, Ms. Meeder said.
“There are also more ingredient forms available than there used to be,” Ms. Meeder said. “It used to be hard to get banana in anything other than flavor; now it’s out there freeze-dried, dehydrated, in slices, dices, chips, powders, flour and juice concentrates.”
Part of banana’s recent popularity may be linked to this year’s theatrical release of “Minions,” an animated film featuring small, yellow creatures with an affinity for the fruit. Such companies as Hostess Brands and PepsiCo launched Minions-themed products this year with a banana flavor. General Mills introduced special-edition Minions Banana Berry sweetened wheat and rice cereal. Just Born Quality Confections released Mike and Ike Minions Mix, with berry and banana flavored candies.
Banana also is branching out in global product launches. Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, introduced Cinnamon Banana Cheetos in Japan. In Australia, Mars rolled out banana-flavored M&M’s chocolate candies.