Dole Celebrates the 125th Year of its Banana Business

Standard Fruit, which would become part of Dole Food Company, started importing then-novelty bananas to the U.S. in 1899. The company’s banana boats are pictured in Honduras in 1901.

Originally printed in the April 2024 issue of Produce Business.

The year was 1899 when three Sicilian brothers and their brother-in-law in New Orleans pooled their life savings and began importing bananas from Honduras to give Americans their first taste of an exotic new fruit from Central and South America.

Without knowing it, Joseph, Felix and Lucca Vaccaro, and Salvador D’Antoni laid the foundation for one of the world’s largest providers of fresh fruits and vegetables — Standard Fruit, which would become part of Dole Food Company, Charlotte, NC.

Before long, the four produce entrepreneurs were operating steamships, growing their own fruit and competing for the ice needed to ship bananas to a hungry and curious world.

Dole marks 125 years of farming, shipping and selling bananas in 2024 with a year-long celebration featuring contests, partnerships, proclamations, recipes and special appearances by Bobby Banana, the produce leader’s 7-foot mascot committed to inspiring healthier living.

“From humble beginnings, Dole has become synonymous with bananas, forever changing the way we experience this delicious and nutritious fruit,” says William Goldfield, director of corporate communications for Dole.

These bananas imported from Honduras gave Americans their first taste of an exotic new fruit. Dole Food Company is celebrating its 125th year in the banana business with a year-long “Banana-versry.”

“As we celebrate 125 years of growth, innovation, and our commitment to grow, process and distribute our produce responsibly, we invite the world to join us on a journey that traces the deep roots of Dole’s past, and paves the way for a brighter future.”

To mark the occasion at the store level, Dole will launch a series of commemorative Dole 125th “Banana-versary” stickers on millions of Dole bananas in multiple waves across the U.S. and Canada. The stickers, released throughout 2024, celebrate the journey, the people, the earth, the flavors and the heritage Dole has cultivated over a century and a quarter.

According to Goldfield, the Dole 125th Banana-versry will also showcase the ways Dole has helped shape a brighter future for the banana and produce industry, consumers and the planet since 1899 — ranging from the building of infrastructures and other social support in communities for banana workers to advances in research for conventional and organic farming, and finally, The Dole Way, the company’s three-pronged global sustainability initiative.

“As the global banana and produce industry has grown because of Dole, so, too, has our obligation to lead in the protection of people, food and nature for future generations,” he says. “Our programs in water management, climate change, waste reduction, employee social equity and health and nutrition are helping to ensure another 125 years of Dole bananas and a happy, healthy global fanbase.”