Banking on the banana

By Lea Coghlan 

When Mike McGrath tasted a frozen chocolate banana at a school fete in Mission Beach several years ago, it was a holy grail moment. 

“It was amazing,” Mr McGrath recalled. 

“It was an average home-made version, but I remember thinking … I have found a solution to my problem and people around the world are going to want this.” 

Mr McGrath’s “problem” was his sweet tooth, in particular, ice-cream and chocolate, both which were contributing to rising levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. 

That first taste convinced Mr McGrath he had stumbled upon a winner, despite being weary of business after his multi-million-dollar internet startup failed a few years prior. But having carved out a career as a successful commercially sponsored skydiver and a globetrotting commercial pilot, there was no questioning Mr McGrath’s passion. Matched with an undeniable belief in the product, a “Silicon Valley” business plan and a lifetime of experience in branding and sponsorship, Feel Good Bananas was born. 

“I knew nothing about food, I knew nothing about bananas,” Mr McGrath said. 

“Cooking for me is beans on toast. 

“Despite the hoops, I discovered an amazing product, I know I can create a brand and I can find and connect with the people who will want what I am selling.” 

Feel Good Bananas is an organic banana flash frozen to create a natural ice-cream like texture and smothered in organic chocolate to resemble a single serve frozen stick-like dessert. It is packaged in 100 per cent biodegradable packaging. 

“It’s like a banana in terms of nutrition,” Mr McGrath said. “It’s like a banana in terms of shape but in terms of the experience, it’s more akin to an ice-cream than a banana and that’s because of the blast freezing process.” 

Two years on, Feel Good Banana production is stocked in 50 locations, north to Port Douglas, south to Magnetic Island and west to Mareeba. 

Earlier this year, Mr McGrath moved into a new manufacturing hub at Mission Beach, with support from the Cassowary Coast Regional Council. He currently sources his bananas from three organic banana growers and is looking for more supply.

While the coronavirus pandemic crisis cost Feel Good Banana’s founder Mike McGrath his day job as a sky diving instructor and slashed 80 per cent of the business’s turnover, it may have delivered a silver lining.

“We’ve been fortunate to pick up extra retail clients during the pandemic including the Friendly Grocer Chain throughout the Far North,” Mr McGrath said.

Mr McGrath now hopes to accelerate expansion plans in southeast Queensland, originally earmarked for 2021, to later this year. Feel Good Bananas shut down production in early March and returned to weekly production in May.