( Photo by The Packer staff )

NEW YORK — One of the reasons I wanted to work at The Packer is because the focus on fruits and vegetables aligns with my passion for food and health.

That focus seems to be a career benefit also shared by Maria Wieloch, senior category manager of fruit, vegetables and flowers at ICA Gruppen in Helsingborg, Sweden. She gave a talk Dec. 11 at the Global Trade Symposium, part of the four-day New York Produce Show and Conference in Manhattan. 

ICA is Sweden’s largest supermarket chain, where Wieloch created several commercial initiatives to encourage children and adults to eat more healthfully, especially during candy-intense holidays, such as Halloween and Easter. Yes, Sweden recently started celebrating Halloween too.

The small country has other similarities to the U.S. — less desirable ones: Rising obesity and too little fresh produce in the average diet. Swedish people eat an average of 360 of the recommended 500 grams of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, she said. In the U.S., one in 10 Americans eats the daily recommended 3½ to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

My trade publication’s indirect focus on wellness doesn’t encourage readers to obsess about weight and appearance like many consumer publications do. That type of media promotes a dangerous diet culture that can do more harm than good. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve tried my share of crazy diets.

But by focusing on eating more color, like one of my favorite social media hashtags, #eattherainbow, suggests, we can improve our health beyond the cosmetic. It’s common knowledge that eating more produce prevents and alleviates illness, extends life and improves the quality of that life. 
Plus, fresh fruits and vegetables really pop on Instagram. (Yes, I’m one of those people.)

I feel good about sharing how industry leaders like Wieloch conjure creative marketing campaigns geared toward children. Her Halloween rebranding of fresh produce was delightful. 

Plums were Clown Noses. Purple potatoes were Spider Bodies. Blueberries were Witch Warts. My favorite? Chocolate-flavored dates were Monster Poo. That one didn’t fly, for obvious reasons, but it still tickles the kid in me.

Also, we can help the fresh produce industry succeed by engaging and informing our readership on what’s happening with fresh fruits and vegetables from the point of harvest to the point it lands on shelves and menus.
The end result of success? More consumption of produce, which means a healthier population.

Amy Sowder is The Packer’s Northeast editor. E-mail her at [email protected].