The Funny Story Behind Why Trader Joe's Bananas Are Sold Individually

Over the past several years, amongst long-standing and well-established titans of supermarket rivals, a simple Trader named Joe has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, personality, and profits. No suburban American neighborhood is truly middle-class until they can buy $12 bottles of wine and the most insane array of dried nuts, berries, fruits, flowers, meats, vegetables, etc. you've ever seen in your life. Trader Joe's has grown into an all-American staple with a direct IV into every millennial fridge and freezer in the West.

Trader Joe's combination of unique products, low prices, quirky presentation, and friendly service has earned it more than just customers and a cult following, Trader Joe's has become a story, a myth, a legend. One such legend is that of the single banana and why Trader Joe's sells bananas to this day individually instead of in bunches. What may initially look like a cute marketing ploy is actually a heartening story of a candid exchange, a challenge in the face of human mortality, and a single piece of fruit.

Trader Joe's banana policy is thanks to one customer

According to Insider, back in 2018, in an episode of the Trader Joe's podcast (really living up to that millennial mascot moniker), CEO Dan Bane explained how the single banana incident came to be.

Years ago in the before-times when millennials were children, Gen Z were younger children, and most Americans probably couldn't spell pandemic (Trader Joe's really hit its stride in the late '90s and early '00s), an elderly woman was shopping at a Trader Joe's for fruit and had been inspecting the many busty bunches of bananas. As Bane explained in the podcast, back then, Trader Joe's was "like everybody else" and sold bananas by the pound (via CNBC).

Heavy and numbered, these bountiful bunches seemed to overwhelm the woman and so after a look and a thought she put them down. Bane himself had apparently been at this particular location and when she put the bananas back, he asked the woman why.

"Ma'am, if you don't mind me asking, I saw you looking at the bananas but you didn't, you didn't put anything in your cart," asked a surely incredulous Bane (no doubt baffled that any consumer would reject the top-quality bananas of such an institution as Trader Joe's). "Sonny ... I may not live to that fourth banana," she replied. And so the story goes: To this day, Trader Joe's sells bananas individually at 19 cents a pop.