Burned-out China worker quits job to earn US$280,000 a month selling green bananas as stress relievers

Burned-out China worker quits job to earn US$280,000 a month selling green bananas as stress relievers

A burned-out tech employee in China decided to quit his job and start a fruit e-commerce business. Now the 32-year-old earns two million yuan (US$280,000) a month selling green bananas.

Lin’s success came as a result of turning a social media wellness trend – selling green bananas as symbols of “stress relief” – into a business opportunity.

The marketing strategy involves a play on words in which the phrase “stop banana green” in Chinese sounds similar to “stop anxiety”.

Bananas are sold while under ripe and with their stems attached, which allows customers to cultivate them in vases of water until they become edible within one to two weeks.

It is a process people find peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of many workplaces.

People are snapping up bunches of green bananas as a stress reliever they can cultivate on their office desk. Photo: news.china.com

The idea came to Lin during one of his live-streaming fruit selling sessions, when some viewers insisted on buying bananas with the stems still on.

Initially puzzled by why anyone would buy the bananas this way, Lin was surprised by the positive feedback from the first batch that he sold as a trial.

In March, Lin partnered with Alibaba’s Tao Factory, whose marketing experts suggested he focus on the “stop anxiety” marketing strategy. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

With their help, Lin provided buyers with vases for easy cultivation, along with small cards inscribed with motivational messages such as “stop worrying”.

He also upgraded the packaging to include slogans such as “escape banana worries” and “stop banana green”.

Before the changes, only a few thousand daily orders were being placed. Now, sales have skyrocketed to 15,000 orders, or about 50,000 kilos of bananas sold every day.

“We eventually realised we were selling not just bananas but emotional value,” Lin’s business partner Hua Dawei said.

“Today’s young consumers value fun and aesthetics,” Lin said.

“This is quite creative, I want to try it too,” one online observer said of Lin’s story.

Consumers who buy the “stop anxiety” bananas say cultivating them is a peaceful, meditative process that helps support them emotionally.

Sometimes, people write their colleagues’ names on the banana skins to “reserve” them, before giving them out to the named recipients.

Workplace stress is a very common problem in China’s fast-paced economy. Photo: Shutterstock

The fruit costs Lin 3 to 4 yuan (40 to 55 US cents) a kilo from farmers and is sold for 33 yuan for a four-kilo bunch that comprises 35-40 bananas.

The “stop anxiety” banana trend has helped many farmers who previously sold their produce for half the price, sometimes at a loss, Lin told the National Business Daily.

Lin joked that it is he who ends up feeling anxious due to the overwhelming demand. He says, at his busiest, he only rests for five hours a day.

In addition to bananas, Lin has launched “Hey! Pineapple”, or hei feng li in Mandarin, phonetically similar to a Cantonese phrase meaning “I like you”. He also plans to market passion fruit products.



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