Creative marketing to sell smaller-than-normal fruits and vegetables

Some produce is priced per item (vs. per pound). Thus, consumers look for the largest produce they can to maximize their expenditure. Which means demand for larger produce keeps growing, so produce providers try to maximize the size of their produce. Then the cycle starts all over again.

I walk into my local grocery store, needing bell peppers (a favorite snack of mine). The red and orange bell peppers are $1.19 per pepper. So what do I do? I look for the largest, nicest pepper to get the most value for my money.

And thus I’ve become a part of an interesting cycle, one that I have a theory comes from marketing pricing strategy.

Here’s my theory:

Some produce is priced per item (vs. per pound). Thus, consumers look for the largest produce they can to maximize their expenditure. Which means demand for larger produce keeps growing, so produce providers try to maximize the size of their produce. Then the cycle starts all over again.

This theory and cycle create a lot of interesting consequences if you think about it. As someone who regularly meets with a dietician, one consequence is portion sizes; what I think is a small apple is actually a medium-large apple on the dietary scale. And, as we become more concerned with the long-term impacts of certain farming practices, encouraging ever-larger sizes may be causing ecological harm.

It also leads us with a lot of produce that could be considered “too small” for consumers. So, stores and food marketing companies are coming up with ways to combat this:

  • Selling produce by the weight vs. per item. The most straightforward answer is to change the pricing model to be weight-based vs. per item. Raise your hand if you’re “one of those” people who take the grapes you don’t need out of the bag and put them in another bag because they are sold by weight (I’m raising my hand).
  • Discounted ugly produce. Probably the most well-known version of this is Imperfect Produce boxes, but some stores have “ugly” bins. However, some critics say that this doesn’t solve the food waste problems it claims to solve.
  • Creative marketing of smaller produce. A few of my favorite examples are below. Although, the extra packaging is an obvious ecological downside. I do, however, find it interesting that they have names such as “Gator Eggs” for small avocados and “Lil Snappers” for apples which leads me to believe they are geared toward small children.

It’s an interesting theory and trend to follow.

 

Three small apples in a tennis ball canister on the grocery store shelf.
ROCKIT apples are small, sold in packaging that reminds me of tennis ball packaging.
Bags of small apples and bags of small oranges on a grocery store shelf.
Lil Snapper apples and oranges are small and come in pre-packaged bags.
Six avocados are in packaging similar to how chicken eggs are sold and are labeled "Gator Eggs" and single serving
Small avocados are marketed as “single serving” and “gator eggs.”

 

 

“Mindless Eating” book provides helpful insights into food marketing/research

in reading the book, I found it was also a very helpful guide to many of the food marketing tactics that we see used today. I’ve provided some examples below.

I originally picked-up Brian Wansink’s book, Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think, to learn more about ways I could positively impact my personal diet. But, in reading the book, I found it was also a very helpful guide to many of the food marketing tactics that we see used today. I’ve provided some examples below.

He discusses anchoring in terms of calories:

If you ask people if there are more or less than 50 calories in an apple, most will say more. When you ask them how many, the average person will say, “66.” If you had instead asked if there were more or less than 150 calories in an apple, most would say less. When you ask them how many, the average person would say, “114.” People unknowingly anchor or focus on the number they first hear and let that bias them. Kindle location 329

How packaging impacts our choices:

The bottom line: We all consume more from big packages, whatever the product. Kindle location 810

…they could cut the size of their meat and cheese in half, and as long as they added enough garden greens to make the hamburger look just as big, they’d feel as full as if they’d eaten the real deal. Kindle location 614

The power of timing:

At one point in the 1980s, Campbell’s developed a series of commercials for radio stations called “storm spots.”25 These radio ads referred to the rain and pointed out that soup is a cozy, warm, comfort food; that it goes so well with sandwiches that are easy to make; and that—not coincidently—the listener probably happens to have a number of cans of Campbell’s soup in the cupboard right at this minute. Radio stations were instructed that if it were raining or storming between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M., they should play these radio ads. The expectation was that people would dutifully eat their soup and buy more the next time they went to the store. Kindle location 1499

The power of smell:

Smell is big business. There are companies that exist solely because they can infuse (the word they oddly use is “impregnate”) odors into plastics. This is because odor can’t reliably be infused into food. Sometimes it doesn’t last; at other times it changes the shelf stability of the food itself. But if you infuse the odor into packaging, it’s a different story. Some day you might heat up your frozen microwavable apple pie and smell the rich apple pie aroma. Even if it’s the container that you’re smelling, you’re primed to enjoy that apple pie even before you put your fork in. Kindle location 1440

Expectation Assimilation and Confirmation Bias:

Psychologists call this “expectation assimilation” and “confirmation bias.” In the case of food, it means that our taste buds are biased by our imagination. Basically, if you expect a food to taste good, it will. At the very least, it will taste better than if you had thought it would only be so-so. Kindle location 1567

Consider two pieces of day-old chocolate cake. If one is named “chocolate cake,” and the other is named “Belgian Black Forest Double Chocolate Cake,” people will buy the second. That’s no surprise. What’s more interesting is that after trying it, people will rate it as tasting better than an identical piece of “plain old cake.” It doesn’t even matter that the Black Forest is not in Belgium. Kindle location 1604

…foods with descriptive names sold 27 percent more. And even though they were priced exactly the same, the customers who ate them consistently rated them as a better value than did the people who ate the same dishes with the boring old names. Kindle location 1636

And much, much more. If you are interested in learning about food marketing and research as well as learning about realistic ways to control your weight and eat healthy, I highly recommend this book.