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News Article

'Ugly' labelling increases likelihood of a sale


Fruit and vegetables that are misshapen sell better when labelled 'ugly'

Labelling misshapen produce as ‘ugly’ improves their chances of being sold, finds a study in Journal of Marketing. Boldly pointing out the flaw in the produce seems to reassure consumers about other attributes of the produce such as taste, it reports. If the obvious flaw in the produce is ignored consumers feel more doubtful about its general quality. Increasing sales of ugly produce could reduce food waste and be beneficial to the environment.

The FAO estimated in 2013 that globally we waste 1.3 gigatons of edible food, responsible for 3.3 gigatons of CO2 emissions. Much of the edible food thrown away by producers is discarded on cosmetic grounds, say the researchers from University of British Columbia who conducted this study. They wanted to find out why consumers don’t buy ugly fruit and vegetables and whether actually labelling produce as ‘ugly’ could help increase its purchase.

They conducted seven experiments, including two in the field. Their initial study showed that at a farmers’ market unattractive produce labelled ‘ugly’ sold better than unattractive produce that was unlabelled. The labelling also generated better profit margins. Two later studies showed that ‘ugly’ labelling improved consumers’ expectations about taste and healthiness of foods and increased their likelihood of choosing unattractive produce. Another study examined the effects of discounting. Ugly foods are often sold at a discount- but the researchers discovered that the discount on labelled produce should not be too large or it counteracted the beneficial effects of the label. About 20% was the best discount. Then in a study of online advertising in which they compared different descriptions for unattractive produce, the researchers found the term ‘ugly’ worked better than ‘imperfect’ in online ads.

The findings may alter managers’ beliefs about food labelling- the researchers’ interviews with store managers revealed the managers preferred not to label unattractive produce and if they did they preferred the term ‘imperfect.’

 

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("purchasing" or preferences or choice or attitudes) and (imperfect or ugly) and consumers

 

Reference

EXPRESS: From Waste to Taste: How “Ugly” Labels Can Increase Purchase of Unattractive Produce. Sid Mookerjee, Yann Cornil, Joandrea (Joey) Hoegg. (2020) Journal of Marketing

January 7, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022242920988656

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • I. Hoskins
  • Date
  • 25 February 2021
  • Subject(s)
  • Food science