Many supermarkets like Asda are running anti-discrimination initiatives.
Like many campaigns the key actors are the victims of discrimination and activists promoting their cause. But in this case, the victims are not people – they’re ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables.
After the EU lifted their ban on selling fruit and veg that didn’t meet certain requirements in 2009, it was assumed that supermarkets would find a way to market, stock and sell misshapen produce.
However, it just didn’t happen.
It’s interesting to delve into why strange looking fruit and veg didn’t take off:
– Availability: quite simply, the products were not available in the right numbers.
– Better inside and out: consumers have stuck with their normal choice because they assume a beautiful looking orange on the outside means a better tasting one on the inside.
– Social norming: a banana-shaped apple might draw derogatory comments from others.
In many senses, society ‘pushes’ an air-brushed view of what is beautiful, desirable and valued – and food is no exception. But in a world where 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year, and 805 million people are starving across the globe, should we not all collectively challenge the state of affairs?
Any efforts to address this issue are applauded, and if it’s done in a creative way like Intermarché, it’s an added bonus. Campaigns that truly engage and raise awareness that it’s the fruit or veg that delivers the taste and nutritional value – not its outside appearance – is a positive step.
Asda’s CSR initiative is creative and neat, and their partnership with Jamie Oliver works pretty well. He, of course, has a large fan-base, ‘down to earth’ appeal and well-known commitment to sustainability and organic produce.
And the best part is, everyone benefits. Customers are able to buy weird and wonderfully shaped fruit and vegetables at a lower price, farmers are able to sell more of what they grow, and Asda may be able to purchase more produce at a lower margin.
However, price is an interesting issue in this debate. Whilst evidence shows price point is still a key driver in purchasing behaviour, selling ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables at a lower price can imply lower quality – i.e. the weird looking carrots are simply not as good as the pretty ones. This could undermine the message that they are true equals in all but superficial qualities.
All in all, Asda’s initiative is a positive and much-needed step towards reducing food waste. But in the future, the price point and campaign could be further developed to ensure we start to treat all fruit and vegetables as equals!
 [Mintel, ‘Fruit and Vegetables: Executive Summary’, Sept. 2014]