Course:HIST104/TheChiquitaBanana

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HIST104-Topics in World History-99C-Jan2013
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HIST 104
Section: 99C
Instructor: Joy Dixon
Craig Smith
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Culture and Contact 1 The Origin of the Chiquita Banana The origin of the Chiquita Banana all began with Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker in 1870, an American sailor, ship's captain, and businessman who travelled and purchased hundreds of bananas in Jamaica. It was from there where the Captain continued his voyage from Jamaica all the way to Philadelphia, where he began to sell his bananas for a profit. Once Captain Baker began to make a profit from his sales of bananas, he began a partnership with Andrew Preston, a prominent American businessman at the turn of the 20th century. The two combined to create what was known as the Boston Fruit Company, the birth of the modern banana business. One of the last men to join the banana business was a man named Minor C Keith. A Brooklyn boy, Keith is known for his travels to Costa Rica with hopes of building a national railroad in 1871. The railroad was completed in 1890, but Keith quickly found out that the flow of passengers and cargo would prove to be insufficient to finance his debt. Keith began experimenting with bananas grown from the roots he had obtained from the French. He then continued to establish banana plantations in Panama and in the Columbian Magdalena Department. His successes led him to become the most dominant businessman for banana trade in Central America and Columbia. John Soluri(2002) noted in his article that due to some financial setbacks, Minor C Keith had no choice but to join a partnership with Andrew Preston and the Boston Fruit Company. Andrew Preston now had access to Minor C Keith's railroad company and any connections that had been made (Soluri,2002,p.386). The business continued to expand and eventually became the United Fruit Company on March 30,1899. It was not until 1944 where the company introduced the name "Chiquita". Even then it was not until1947 when "Chiquita" became a registered trademark in the United States.


The Chiquita Brand's Reputation Through Time Chiquita Brands International is a leading marketer and distributor of energy-rich Chiquita bananas and complimentary fruits and nutritious blends of green salads. Chiquita Brands' goal is to "Improve World Nutrition". They suggest that consumers eat more nutritious diets, eat foods rich in nutrients, and low in calories, which includes more fruits and vegetables. There is a vast amount of nutrients in a banana, an apple slice or a plate of leafy greens. In 1944, Chiquita Brands introduced the name "Chiquita" and the "Miss Chiquita" character and a jingle. In 1963, the company started sticking blue labels to each banana. They still do this today! And in 1989, Chiquita Brands advertised "Chiquita, Quite Possibly the Worlds's Perfect Food". In 2002, the company adopted the Social Accountability Initiative standards based on national laws, international human rights, and conventions of the International Labor Organisation. A prominent citizen in Latin America spoke of Chiquita's role to improve income and social progress in rural communities. In 2009, the news media, describing a history, said that Chiquita Brands had interacted with paramilitary groups in Central America. Human rights violations had occurred. Chiquita Brands is the only company in the United States to be found guilty of paying bribes to a terrorist organisation, as defined by the US government. Today, Chiquita Brands declares that social responsibility is a cornerstone of their business. For example, a news magazine reports that because bananas and plantains produce fruit year-round, they provide a very valuable food source during the hunger season when food from one annual/semi-annual harvest has been consumed and the next harvest is to come. Bananas and plantains are therefore critical to global food security. The members of the public are accepting Chiquita Brands International as good corporate citizens.


Chiquita Banana and Human Rights Issues Although a cheery, positive image in the form of the iconic "Chiquita Banana" lady is associated with the banana giant, Chiquita, (formerly United Fruit), has not upheld the strongest moral and ethical values when it comes to how they did business. In 1912, a Honduran military coup overthrew and forced the current President Manuel Zelaya into exile, soon followed by the election of Manuel Bonilla. The catalyst behind the removal of Zelaya is speculated as his semi-reformist plan to raise the nation's minimum wage. This plan did not bode well for corporate giants United and Dole, who were employing thousands of locals well under the poverty level. After winning the election, Bonilla proceeded to give sizeable handouts to none other than American Samuel Zemurray, Honduran plantation owner, in the form of 25 years of tax exemption. Zemurray later went on to become president of United Fruit. In December, 1928, Columbian workers began striking for the right to be recognized as employees rather than subcontractors and to be paid in cash rather than vouchers redeemable from United Fruit subsidiaries. On December 6th, the Columbian Army used automatic machine guns to suppress the strikers and culminate the strike. The estmated number of fatalities is said to be as high as 3,000 and argued to be as low as 9. The actual number has sparked a great source of controversy. There have been a myriad of other egregious human rights offences committed by this fruit giant since their start-up in 1899. In 1966, 100 Honduran plantation workers and their families were evicted from their company owned homes when a local plantation closed down. Several years later, intimidation tactics and unlawful dismissals were used upon many Ecuadorian plantation workers to prevent them from unionizing. In all countries in which Chiquita was/is invested, allegations have been made that plantation workers were forced to handle toxic chemicals; needless to say, without any means of proper personal protective equipment. Child labour was also rampant in the past and some human rights activists suggest it continues today. Chiquita would allow children a young as eight years old to work physically demanding and strenuous jobs alongside their adult counterparts for less than a dollar a day. Labour laws in the Latin American countries are not as stringent as those in North America and corporations use this to advantage, to ultimately advance the bottom line at the expense of their "disposable" employees.


The Chiquita Banana in the Public Eye through Media and Marketing Since the Great Depression, Chiquita Brands International has put tremendous efforts into stabilizing their company as the leading international banana producer in the public eye. In 1929, the company created its first advertising department to devise novel marketing ideas, in which the orgaization finally transformed into what people called a marketing company, as opposed to a production company (Bucheli,2005). And despite losing money due to their costly marketing campaigns, they focused so much energy in that department because of the investors. Marksting campaigns made the brand look good in the public eye, which could keep investors at ease while also securing even more investment. Perhaps the largest marketing invention was the seductive character of "Miss Chiquit", brought to life in 1944, which spawned a new, exciting generation of cultural commodities and paraphenalia (Carey,2007). The company had created an internationallyrecognizable brand icon that not only gaveits branding more character, but also reached out to the masses to educate them on the banana through jingles and dance. Fast forward to contemporary Chiquita banana media news, the brand continues to be a marketing machine, as it launched yet another huge campaign in 2010. This followed relatively closely to coming out of debt in 2002 (Chiquita marks 100th,2002). In an interview with the company's Art Director, DJ Neff, we discover that he was tasked with the mission of continuing to make bananas cool (Sung,2010). He did this by coming up with new collectible designs of the iconic blue and yellow sticker, and by launching a new website featuring viral videos, an interactive game (Banana Boogie Battle), and a personal sticker generator. He and his team also utilized Chiquita banana social media channels to build this new interactive brand experience. Despite their efforts to promote the Chiquita banana as an overall playful and positive international brand, they cannot completely rid themselves of turmoil in the media. The 1990s was a tough financial road bump for them, as the European Union placed large quotas on any banana growing in Latin America (DePalma,2001). Then in 2011, Chiquita banana wanted to switch to an alternative fuel from Canadian oil sands because of the controversy that has surrounded it, so Canadian pro-oil sand orgaization, ethicaloil.org, decided to boycott the bananas through a radio campaign (Hussain,2011). Nevertheless, Chiquita banana marketing schemes have made them appear generally positive in the public eye.


The Chiquita Banana: Headquarters and Distribution The Chiquita Banana headquarters (i.e.Chiquita Brands International) is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the company has distribution centres throughout the world, in around eighty countries. Chiquita is one of the world's biggest suppliers and distributors of bananas and other fruit products. The company sources, distributes, and markets bananas from Latin America into North America and Europe. Both North America and Europe are the principal consumers of bananas on the global matket. While Chiquita was originally able to distribute in North America and European markets quite freely, protectionist laws and policies adopted by the European Union have placed limits on Chiquita's ability to distribute throughout the European Union. For example, and as mentioned earlier, in 1993 the European Union adopted a "single import policy" for bananas where the fruit would have to be imported by either European countries or ex-European colonies, as a result of this, Chiquita lost a large portion of its market in EU countries.


Trade and Development of the Chiquita Banana It all began in 1870, when Captain Dow Baker bought 160 bunches of bananas in Jamaica and brought them over to Jersy City in eleven days, where he sold these bananas for an enormous profit. Captain Baker, along with Andrew Preston, partnered up and formed the Boston Fruit Company in 1885. Boston Fruit Company merged with Minor C. Keith's railroad companies to create the United Fruit Company on March 30, 1899. The merger of Boston Fruit Company and Keith's railroad companies was to be able to continue trade through floods and droughts. During the early 1900s, United Fruit Company was the number one U.S. banana company, despite facing competition from Standard Fruit and Steamship Company of New Orleans. In 1994, the Chiquita Brand gained worldwide fame after the release of the "Chiquita Banana" song, which rapidly increased domestic banana consumption. Furthermore, the Chiquita sticker was released in 1947, which helped distinguish Chiquita bananas from other branded bananas.

In the early 1950s, United Fruit Company still had a monopoly of the banana market, even though their share of the banana market had been declining since 1910. However, in the 1960s, the company reported losses of half a million dollars, and the company was now facing problems as production costs were increasing and prices were dropping. At around the same time, the Panama disease broke out, which further affected the company and its troubles. In 1970, United Fruit Company merged with AMK Corporation in hopes of bringing the company out of the financial crisis. However, the merger was not a successful one, as the company suffered its greatest losses in history. Central American governments imposed a large export tax on their bananas, and Hurricane Fifi in 1974 caused losses of more than $20 million, destroying 70% of the company's Honduran plantations. Throughout 1974 to 1982, United Fruit Company only had profits of about $97 million. Carl Linder took over the company in 1984, and the company's name was changed to Chiquita Brands International Inc. in 1990. In 1992, the company was still in financial turmoil, as it reported a $284 million net loss, due to poor banana quality and a sluggish European market. The company continued to lose money well into the mid-1990s, and its sales in the European banana market dropped from 40% to 20%.


References

    Bucheli,M(2005)Bananas and Business:The United Fruit Company in Columbia,1899-2000

New York,NY:NYU Press

    Carey,M(2007)The Nature of place:Recent research on environment and society in Latin America. ''Latin America Research Review42(3),252-264
    Chiquita Brands International(2009) retrieved from http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php? title=Chiquita_Brands_International_Inc.
    "Chiquita brands International" www.wikiinvest.com/stock/Chiquita_Brands_International
    Chiquita marks 100th anniversary on nyse(2002)PR Newswire UK Retrieved from http;//www.prnewswire.co.uk/news-releases/chiquita-marks-100th-anniversary-on-nyse-154158505.html
    DePalma,A(2001,January17) Citing european banana quotas,chiquita says bankruptcy looms. The new york times
    Ethical Consumer(2011) http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/
    Hussain,Y(2011,December18)Oil sands embroiled in banana wars http://business.financialpost.com
    International Dictionary of Company Histories,Vol.21 St.James Press,1998
    "Map of Banana Farms" www.chiquitabananas.com
    Soluri,J(2002)Accounting for Taste. Journal of Environmental History,7,386-388.
    Sung,M(2010,February 04)Chiquita banana brand refresh: An interview with the designer,dj neffDesign related, http://www.designrelated.com/news/feature_view?id=47