Wonky marketing leaves sour taste

Have you heard of the everyday scandal of feminised potatoes, strawberries, parsnips, carrots? The stuff that fails the "beauty queen test" and is sold off cheap(er)? Yes, seriously. It's hard to say which is worse – the fact that we in the UK reject so much perfectly healthy fruit and vegetables on grounds of appearance alone. Or the way some supermarkets are trying to reverse this habit by marketing the stuff with discriminatory language. That's right: a form of sexism that manages to denigrate both women and parsnips at the same time. Quite a feat.

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Scotmid Co-operative must be the worst offender on this count. The packaging tells us about the lack of beauty not once but twice: "Not as beautiful, just as tasty", runs the strapline, with "No Beauty Queens" above a trio of awkward- looking, anthropomorphic and rather pitiful items. You see, they can't be beautiful – or even happy – because they're "Marvellous Mis-Shapes". The big potato wears the strangest grin, poor creature, as if were being shamed for our delectation.

The message is clear: these specimens had better apologise for their appearance. But don't worry, customer, they taste the same as their more glamorous counterparts.

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Tesco fares slightly better, at least avoiding any of this gender nonsense. It also flags up the point of the exercise with its prominent Love Food, Hate Waste tag. But it spoils things by getting into a terrible twist over the whole notion of perfection. "Perfectly imperfect", its slogan runs, before muddying the waters further with another line: "Less than perfect, just as tasty". So is it perfect, or isn't it? More to the point, does anyone seek "perfection" in fruit and veg? And even if we did, why would we adopt Tesco's criteria?

You start to wonder if this sales strategy can be done well, i.e. without treating shoppers like fools or as if everyone is old enough to remember how awful the idea of beauty queens was.

Take a bow, Morrissons. "Naturally Wonky" is clear and simple and it's not going to offend anyone: man, woman or potato. Is it?

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The odd thing with all these supermarkets is that when you open the packaging, fully expecting a fruity freakshow, you get nothing of the sort. All the stuff looks very much like standard fare.

Such an anticlimax. It makes you wonder whether these so-called mis-shapes and wonkies are cover for some huge eugenic cull of edibles across our land. 

 If this is wonky, I don't know what regular looks like

If this is wonky, I don't know what regular looks like

 Honestly, do these beauties deserve to be stigmatised?

Honestly, do these beauties deserve to be stigmatised?

© Copyright Sam Phipps

Sam Phipps