May 16, 2022 by Terry O'Reilly

Food for Thought: Be a Champion for Change


Terry O'Reilly

Host of CBC Radio's "Under the Influence," Co-Founder of The Apostrophe Podcast Company, Speaker, and Author


According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, over a billion tons of food is thrown away each year, costing the world about $750 billion annually. Much of that food is perfectly fine and edible. Often, it’s just oddly shaped or deformed.

The marketing department at Intermarché, a European supermarket chain, looked at that waste and saw an opportunity. They came up with an ingenious idea and presented it to the supermarket management. They got approval—then created a campaign called “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.” The purpose of the campaign was simple: to celebrate the irregular, deformed, and misshapen produce that is often discarded just because it is unattractive.

In other words, the ugly fruit and vegetables.

First, the supermarket offered to buy the fruit and vegetables that farmers usually threw away. Then the marketing department produced seven posters starring the most unattractive fruit and veggies they could find.

One showed a deformed green apple:

Still another showed a strange-looking orange, with the headline, “A hideous orange still makes beautiful juice.”

The message was clear: Oddly shaped fruit and vegetables still tasted good even if they didn’t look good.

The supermarket knew that persuading shoppers to buy deformed products would not be easy. So, to prove that ugly produce had an “inner beauty,” the supermarket created “inglorious vegetable soups” and “inglorious fruit juices”—complete with attractive packaging. Once shoppers took a taste, they were convinced the produce was just as pleasing to the taste buds as regular produce. Then the supermarket dedicated an entire aisle to their ugly fruits and vegetables—and priced it 30 percent cheaper than regular produce.

The result was astounding: The entire 1.2 tons of ugly fruit and veggies sold out in the first two days. Best of all, store traffic increased 24 percent.

It was a remarkable strategy. The marketing department was the change agent. They spotted the opportunity and developed the strategy. I’m sure management thought the “ugly fruit” strategy was scary at first, but, when the company put its resources behind the idea, the results came quickly. Which proves yet again that, when marketing and management work together, amazing things can happen.

Think about that in your business. Be a champion for change. Marketing and data can identify new growth opportunities. When the company puts its resources behind those opportunities, it can create a deeper relationship with your subscribers. When subscriber satisfaction increases, so does loyalty and profit.

That’s the sweetest fruit of all.

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