Honey, I Shrunk the Banana

THE King of Bananas - Chiquita Brands International - is proud to introduce its new baby: "Chiquita Jr." The company, which claims to supply one-third of the 35 million bananas consumed worldwide each year, is marketing its offspring for times "When a Little is Exactly Enough."

The vital stats: "Junior" averages 4 to 7 inches, compared with the 9 to 12-inch old-timer; and the same sweet taste is still intact. Carolyn Weitsett, the company spokeswoman, is quick to add, "There's nothing strange they do to make them small. They just grow them closer to the ground."

She also shrugs when asked if Chiquita Jr. is a response to the recent wave of mini snacks. "It's simply an answer to people's question, `What do I do with one-third of a banana that's left on the breakfast table?' Indeed, the company's recent research on banana-eating habits unearthed this complaint, as well as these: The standard is too long for lunch boxes and too heavy for a snack.

Chiquita began introducing Junior to the United States last July and expects to complete city-by-city by the end of the year.

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