Consumers perceive “ugly”, misshappen vegetables, as more natural. Moreover communication campaigns promoting these “abnormal” products benefit also the stores , such campaign convey indeed a positive image in the minds of the customers. Those are the results of a study by Mia Birau and Corine Faure (University of Grenoble) which was presented at the latest EMAC 2017 conference in Groningen (The Netherlands).
Market research on ugly products
It all started with “ugly” vegetables, vegetables that were “deformed”, misshappen, and that were normally excluded from supermarkets. The FDA estimates that these “abnormal” products represent between 20 and 40% of a farmer’s production.
With food waste sensitization growing, some supermarkets had the idea to market these ugly vegetables. Intermarché (France) was perhaps the pioneer and biggest proponent of this, followed by others (see for instance this product found at 2016 SIAL fair). Delhaize (Belgium) has launched also a similar campaign mid-May.
Interestuingly, “ugly product” marketing has now extended beyond fruits and vegetables and include other products categories (like biscuits) for instance.
Beauty sells better than ugliness
Consumer psychology literature shows that consumers prefer visual attractiveness which leads to better product’s evaluations. Negative evaluations are not only led by products’ defaults but also by packagings’ imperfections.
Research is rare on those, now trendy, ugly vegetables. Very deformed products seem to be lead to lower purchase intentions, however not for consumers sensitized to food waste issues. As for vegetables which are only lightly deformed, no difference is seen compared to their “normal” counterparts.
Better perceptions of ugly vegetables
In a first study the two authors showed that misshappen products carry positive consumers’ perceptions. They are perceived as more natural, more organic and more local.
Ugly products perceived equally well as organic products
in a second study the authors show that deformed vegetables are attributed properties that are usually those of organic products. Ugly vegetables are perceived as “organic”, “healthy” and “natural” as regular organic ones.
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