Apparently their background display color matters a lot. Retailers should take note.
When Anthony Bourdain made a documentary about food waste in 2017, he called it "one of the greatest problems of the 21st century." Food waste is described in the film as "criminal" for the way in which it contributes directly to climate change, consuming valuable resources and then squandering them in the face of human hunger and malnutrition.
There is debate over where the greatest source of waste is. Some studies say it's consumers, while others point fingers at production, handling, processing, or distribution, with these changing according to location in the world. But the point remains the same – this is a battle we all need to be fighting.One way to tackle food waste is to boost the appeal of fresh fruits and vegetables in stores. Very little thought is given to marketing produce, especially relative to packaged foods, and it's often left looking sad and lonely in unattractive displays. And yet, investing more effort in marketing it would likely improve sales, quality of diet, and human health, while reducing the number of items left to languish and eventually get thrown out.
A team of researchers from Brigham Young University and Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) has determined that placing fresh vegetables on a black background makes them more attractive than any other colored background. This, they argue, could be the key to retailers selling more vegetables. Study co-author Bryan Howell said in a press release,
"If the goal is to boost sales of fresh produce in retail stores, it makes sense that vendors present them in an attractive and appetizing manner. In the design world, black has always been the cool color, but I didn’t know it would carry over into the vegetable world."
The study assessed five types of vegetables – tomato, carrot, yellow bell pepper, eggplant, mushroom – on five different backgrounds with neutral grey colours varying in degree of blackness. Based on feedback from 46 participants, who evaluated the color, attractiveness, and perceived expensiveness of the vegetables, they found that the blackest background made them most appealing.
"Yellow peppers were rated as the most attractive and expensive across all the white, grey and black backgrounds, while carrots generally rated the least attractive and expensive. However, carrots got the biggest boost in ratings when paired with a black background, even jumping eggplants and mushrooms in attractiveness."
Howell describes his study as a "bit of fun research" that could help stores "do a much better job at presenting their vegetables than they do." And while many stores already do a great job, there's nothing wrong with pushing vegetables a bit harder on shoppers. In fact, it would be a nice break from the usual junk that gets relentlessly peddled. Bring on the carrots and the bell peppers!