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Pineapples with a Purpose

Pineapples are a very important fruit. Like mangoes, pineapples help bridge the gap between the end of the domestic hard fruit season (think apples and pears) and the beginning of the soft fruit season (peaches and nectarines).

Pineapples are also important because they pair well with spring dishes, like ham and fresh fruit salads. But pineapples are especially important at Whole Foods Market® because over the last two-plus years we’ve been able to transition our buying so that most of the pineapples we bring in meet our Whole Trade® Guarantee.

That guarantee is our commitment to the highest standards of ethical trade, environmental stewardship and quality. No matter where you shop, these days most of the fresh pineapples sold in the US come from Costa Rica. Costa Rica has better growing conditions and the cost of land is far lower than in Hawaii, the pineapple powerhouse of previous years.

As a result of this shift pineapple production in Costa Rica has increased significantly; from just 27,000 acres to well over 100,000 acres in the past 10 years. In fact, pineapples have overtaken coffee to become Costa Rica's second-highest grossing export crop, behind bananas.

As the planted areas in Costa Rica increase, so do the concerns over the environmental and social impact of the industry.

Our first step is to source as much organic crop as is available. By converting a significant portion of our pineapple supply to organic, we eliminate the use of many of the agrochemicals that have become so controversial in pineapple production.

Organic production uses pest control methods that have less of an environmental impact. For example, instead of using toxic and persistent chemical herbicides to control weeds, organic growers cover their beds with a physical barrier, typically a thin plastic sheet. Additionally, this method maintains soil moisture and drastically reduces erosion.

And the Whole Trade Guarantee allows us to go beyond the benefits of organic with:

  • Third-party certification – All of our Whole Trade pineapple, whether organic or conventional, are certified by either Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade USA. These certifiers ensure that the farms meet very specific environmental and/or social standards.
  • Investing in communities, research and education – For every box of pineapples we sell, Whole Foods Market makes a contribution to support farm-worker communities in Costa Rica, or to support sustainable-agriculture education and research. On Fair Trade Certified products, the contribution flows directly to the workers at the farm, who use the money to fund community projects such as day cares or education centers. On Rainforest Alliance Certified products, we make the contribution to our friends at EARTH University to support their scholarship fund and their research on responsible pineapple production.

All of our Whole Trade pineapples are a variety known as MD-2. This variety is renowned for its sweetness and lower acidity.

Virtually all of our organic pineapples are grown by Corsicana Farms, near the town of La Virgin in the northeastern Costa Rican province of Heredia. Founded in 1991 and with more than 3000 acres under cultivation, this Fair Trade-certified farm is widely considered a model for organic pineapple production.

Pineapples are a very land-, labor- and time-intensive crop. A single piece of fruit takes 18 months or more to grow. Harvesting, sorting and packing this large, heavy fruit is a difficult and painstaking task. This makes the job of producing this wonderful fruit in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible all the more important.

Whole Foods Market salutes those who have gone above and beyond to produce pineapples with a purpose and to our customers who buy them. We’d love to hear why Whole Trade pineapples are important to you. Let us know in the comments.

Many thanks to Matt Rogers and Rodrigo Velasquez for contributing to this post.

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janet cole jones says …

most of my senior neighbors criticize me for making sure the food i purchase is organic however, for some 18 years i have been doing so and will continue. they hold that all the food is shipped together and so the organic is compromised. and they also contend it is not really organic. but i believe in the farmers, the workers and the folks handlening these products, i want to contibute to their health as well as my own. and i truly like pineapple it is probably my most favorite of fruit.

Allison says …

While I appreciate the effort to buy organic and fair trade, why can this work not be done with the growers in Hawaii? Is there no grower in Hawaii willing to work toward and environmentally friendly solution? I find that hard to believe. I am all for good growing practices, but I prefer to hear that the stores from which I purchase my food are supporting our "local" economies as much as possible. First, I shop local growers at the farmers market; then I shop from the "local" growers at the stores; then I shop US growers; and finally, imports.

Ryan says …

To answer your question, Allison, WF can't source from Hawaii because Hawaii has stopped growing pineapples. The last crop was harvested in the early 2000s, largely because land and labor costs were too high as a US state. The land used to grow pineapples on the island of Lanai is now mostly owned by a private corporation and used for tourism.

susie says …

Ryan and WHOLE FOODS, yes, Dole no longer produces pinapple here in Hawaii where I live. This does not mean that SOMEONE else could not undertake this project, or supply other crops as well. Our lands are in the continuous process of overdevelopment, with ag. land being rezoned yearly. Our urban housing sprawl , through irresponsible leadership, planning and development has created inexcusable traffic problems. It reduces our ability to self sustain. I BEG of businesses like WHOLE FOODS who advertise commitment to responsible agriculture , to please put emphasis on the need for local sustainability. Become a visible part of the campaign. I am happy to see you supporting communities in other countries. Support the communitites in which your point of sale business thrives! Support local farmers buy ENCOURAGING them with contracts, . Prioritize local organic produce and goods OVER imports.

Bonnie Parker says …

I buy organic fruit whenever I find it at my local grocery. We do not have a Whole food store in our area of Western New York State but I am still proud of their direction. Thank you for being good business partners and encouraging growers to be good stewards of the land.

JoAnn Luce says …

I bought pineapples from save a lot food store. The label said Chikita pineapples from Costa Rica. My question is, are they safe? Or do they use all kinds of chemical to danger your health. I don't want to eat the pineapples I bought. I want all my fruit to be organic, but it is hard to find pineapples that are. Please advise.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JOANN - Since this wasn't a product you purchased at one of our stores, I don't have info for you regarding that pineapple. Check with your local store when you are there and they can help you pick out a pineapple if you are looking for a different option than the one you purchased.

elder says …

do you know any technique of pineapple storage, or methods used to prevent infestation.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ELDER - Are you looking to store a whole pineapple? It should be okay kept at room temperature with minimal exposure to the sun. If you are looking for it to last longer, you could always cut and core it and store the slices in your fridge.

Frank Mizsei says …

I used to buy organic pineapples grown in Hawaii, a boxful at a time, once or twice a month. Those were the best pineapples ever... nothing I've had since has come close. I was trying to utilize the anti-inflammatory properties of pineapple, to help my knee heal, after suffering an injury playing basketball (that just wasn't getting much better)... and after implementing my pineapple eating and juicing regimen for a few months, it worked! Currently at my local store (not a Whole Foods Market), I can buy organic pineapples grown in Costa Rica, with a discount applied, for about $3.59 each. I would gladly pay $7.00-$8.00-$9.00 each for those Organic Maui Gold pineapples again. They were simply the best. Someone... anyone... please help bring them back!

andres restrepo says …

Hi I would like to know from whom you get the pineapples from? thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANDRES - Our exact vendors can vary so if you check with your local store they can let you know!