Pre-Packaged Fresh Fruit And The Twitter Big Mouths

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In some way this will be an article a little bit out of the ordinary, as I generally only relate about novelties in packaging technology and give sometimes my comments about the designs. However in this article I want to include the reaction (and my comment) to some pre-packaged fresh fruit offerings by a bunch of brainless twittering consumers.
To avoid controversy about the word “brainless” let me define it, as you can find it in Webster’s (among others), as: “An action or behaviour marked by lack of intellectual acuity and devoid of good sense or judgment”.

Some weeks ago (I know I’m late with a reaction, but I don’t like to write about some “hot-potato” without having the facts complete), somewhere half March, the twitter community got a bit wild when #OrangeGate and some days later #AvocadoGate was started.

#OrangeGate was sparked by a US shopper posting a photo on Twitter of pre-peeled oranges packaged in a plastic box.
#AvocadoGate got the twitter community in a frenzy after a photo posted by a Vancouver shopper showed a set of two pre-cut avocado halves packaged in plastic and cardboard.

Let’s look at the facts first:
#OrangeGate occurred first. The marketing boys and girls of Whole Foods thought to have a brilliant idea and stocked their shops with pre-peeled oranges, each of which had been placed in a plastic container to preserve freshness.

Part of the twitter community was outraged about the gross overuse of plastic and even went as far as to point out how lazy people are nowadays that they can’t peel their own oranges. Other twitterers posted comments actually sticking up for the pre-peeled oranges pointing out the advantages of them for disabled or elderly people who are unable to peel the fruit.

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Although the claim of gross over-use of plastic packaging material is disputable, I must say I’m not a friend of this design as it could have been much better, much more efficient and sustainable. It’s obvious that the boys and girls of Whole Foods didn’t use their brains.
However I have problems with the “personalised” criticism. First of all there are hundreds of circumstances imaginable where ready-peeled oranges (or any other fruit for that matter) are very welcome and that has nothing to do with laziness. Second and certainly not the least there are millions of fellow-consumers, who have, in one way or another, a limited independence to unprepared food items.

160328-Crunch Pack sliced apples W320 100dpiMaybe next time the critical twitterer can come out of their egocentric zone and take the needs of their fellow-consumer with a bit of compassion (I know, that’s a dirty word) and more serious. And dear critical twitterer, don’t forget you don’t have to buy the pre-packaged peeled orange. You have the full freedom. Your concern about the environment is admirable, but “improve the world starting with yourself”.

Before I go to the #AvocadoGate, one more comment to the twitter frenzy about this pre-peeled orange packaging.

Already for quite some time we see pre-packaged (sweetened) sliced apples on the market, but I never have heard of any twitter comment in regard to this product. As the pre-packaged sliced apples are very popular with the lunchbox of schoolkids, I suppose that the teeth of the schoolkids are so rotten, that a whole and fresh apple can’t be bitten by the poor lads and lassies.

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And tell me. Why are you drinking orange juice from a pack? Are you too lazy to press your own juice? Pressing an orange is as easy as peeling an orange.

Where is the outrage here, my dear twitterers? Or is the convenience for the poor schoolkid fully acceptable and the convenience for the disabled and elderly out of line.

Well, time to go to #AvocadoGate, which is in some ways a completely different story.

Avocados enjoy worldwide a fast growing popularity. However there are a few inconvenient problems with this super fruit. First, the avocados generally sold in supermarkets are too large, as they are meant to have two to three servings. In other words only a few consumers are able to eat the avocado just in one setting and all the others have either to store (package and refrigerate) the left-over or throw it away. I don’t discuss here the problem of food waste, that problem is too large and complicated to be covered by a few words, so let’s assume that the consumer wants to safe a part of the avocado for a later lunch or snack. The second problem is that avocados after they are cut (in halves) or peeled deteriorate very fast and without a proper packaging start browning almost immediately.

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The first problem (the dimension) can be solved easily by the supermarket as there are small avocados (for on-the-go) available in the market. As an example I give here the “gator” avocados of Shanley Farms in California.
According to Shanley Farms the baby avocados appeal particularly to female shoppers looking for healthy snacks under 100 calories. These avocados are the perfect size for everyday use, guaranteeing that an avocado will never sit half eaten in the fridge.
The photo shows a 6-pack of size No. 84 avocados packed in a carton similar to the one used to pack half a dozen eggs.

The second problem, however, is a bit more complicated.

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First the facts: Supermarket chain Sobeys in Canada introduced avocados, which were pre-cut, and then wrapped in plastic and stuck to a paperboard sheet.
Although, basically, the introduction of pre-packaged avocado halves is a sound idea, the execution of the project by Sobeys can without any restriction be called horrible.

The argumentation Sobeys used to justify its decision is sound, when they state that “This product was developed for people who might be new to using avocados and for a little more convenience. It eliminates the guess work when it comes to ripeness and any challenges if you are not familiar with peeling and seeding a fresh avocado. The packaging is there to keep the fresh wholesome appearance and quality of the avocado without it browning prior to consumption”.
As said there are many more arguments to put in line, however that doesn’t justify Sobeys horrible execution of the design.

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There is absolutely no reason to use a large paperboard frame with a lot of plastic. I can see why the twitter community got its pants in a twist, although they missed the main point in several tweets, when they criticised the existence of the pre-packaged avocado halves an sich.

At least the Brits aren’t so small minded as the Canadian twitterers and in any way far more sophisticated in their packaging design.

The UK retail chain Marks&Spencer recently launched fresh ready-sliced avocado pots, following its “baby“ avocado launch earlier this year. The new fully-ripened and ready-to-go pot-packaged offering uses the same technology as is used with salad and meat products, where the atmosphere inside the packaging is adjusted to help extend freshness, and therefore prevent any browning.

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That’s the way it should be done. The question, probably, now is: Am I an advocate for packaging every product individually? Certainly not, but we have to keep in mind that there are quite some demographics out there, who need some convenience through prepared, and consequently packaged, fresh produce and ready-to-eat products. And, please, let’s not forget that any and every chance of diminishing food waste is more than welcome.

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