Ugly fruit charms, but ignorance harms

01/10/2014 09:54:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

Amelia Freidline, Copy EditorAmelia Freidline, Copy EditorAround the new year it seems like every media outlet — and the entire world of the Internet — is abuzz with lists of predictions for the months ahead.

According to the folks in the know, in 2014, pastels will be big for spring, Google+ will emerge as a major player in social media, and finger print scans or eyeball recognition on tech devices will increasingly replace the need for complicated passwords.

Oh, and Pantone’s color of the year is “radiant orchid.” Maybe that’s why I had dreams recently about purple cauliflower.

Some of these lists have serious insights and some are just silly.

Bloomberg Businessweek, reporting on ad firm JWT’s “100 things to watch in 2014,” distilled the food-related news down into this nugget: “Food marketing in 2014 will be ugly.”

Of course I had to click that link.

“Ugly produce” holds down spot 93 of JWT’s list.

Bloomberg writer Venessa Wong explains that “almost six in 10 people surveyed by JWT say they ‘like goods that are a little flawed or imperfect’ ... and seven in 10 find beauty in flaws.”

JWT cites European efforts to curb food waste by marketing misshapen produce instead of throwing it away or refusing to sell it at retail.

Austria-based retailer Billa markets these under its private label “Wunderlinge” (a portmanteau of “anomaly” and “miracle”), and German chain Edekka is testing selling “flawed” fruits and vegetables at a discout, JWT reports.

The European products reminded me of how Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms has promoted frost-kissed artichokes as more flavorful than regular artichokes, despite their less beautiful appearance.

Fresno, Calif.-based Baloian Farms has received good reception of its 1-pound packages of Oddbells, misshapen red and green bell peppers.

I think it’s great that companies are developing clever ways to market their less-than-perfect-looking fruits and vegetables rather than just hiding them in bulk bags — I pulled a carrot out of the crisper the other day that had a shape only a mother carrot could love.

But Bloomberg’s Wong had a good point.

“The survey never asks how flawed (shoppers are) willing to go,” she writes. “In an age of epic food waste, it’s reassuring that consumers may find something charming about a bruised apple, but would they prefer it to a flawless apple that cost the same? Preferences often are emotional, and JWT’s point, perhaps, is: Only if the marketing is persuasive enough.”


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