BANANAS GAIN NEW ALLIES IN TWO POPULAR DIET PLANS

WASHINGTON -- Bananas, long the bestselling item in produce, have acquired new appeal, after a pair of diet programs endorsed consumption of the formerly forbidden fruit.In two separate announcements, the International Banana Association announced that The South Beach Diet will now allow practitioners to add bananas to their regimen during the diet's maintenance phase. Earlier, the IBA inked a partnership

WASHINGTON -- Bananas, long the bestselling item in produce, have acquired new appeal, after a pair of diet programs endorsed consumption of the formerly forbidden fruit.

In two separate announcements, the International Banana Association announced that The South Beach Diet will now allow practitioners to add bananas to their regimen during the diet's maintenance phase. Earlier, the IBA inked a partnership with Weight Watchers to co-promote bananas as the company's upcoming "Pick of the Season."

Produce executives have watched over the past year as sales of bananas have suffered with the growth in popularity of low-carb diets. The South Beach Diet in particular had listed bananas as a "food to avoid or eat rarely."

"There's no doubt that the strict regimen required by some of these low-carb diets has impacted bananas and other fresh fruits," said Tim Debus, IBA's executive director.

Now, with the updated text and new promotional efforts, sales will rebound, industry officials hope.

Of the 12% of Americans currently following a low-carb diet, 30% have reduced their fruit consumption, while 14% have stopped eating fruit altogether, according to a national telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by ACNielsen in June.

The IBA/Weight Watchers promotion features recipe sets, point-of-sale materials, a dedicated section on Weight Watchers' official Web site and more than 350 million special stickers on banana clusters nationwide. The goal is to communicate the message that bananas are a good choice for healthy weight loss, Debus said.