Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why do supermarkets sprinkle the fresh vegetables with water?

You're being primed (via):

Let's pay a visit to Whole Foods' splendid Columbus Circle store in New York City. As you descend the escalator you enter the realm of a freshly cut flowers. These are what advertisers call "symbolics"--unconscious suggestions. In this case, letting us know that what's before us is bursting with freshness.

Flowers, as everyone knows, are among the freshest, most perishable objects on earth. Which is why fresh flowers are placed right up front--to "prime" us to think of freshness the moment we enter the store. Consider the opposite--what if we entered the store and were greeted with stacks of canned tuna and plastic flowers? Having been primed at the outset, we continue to carry that association, albeit subconsciously, with us as we shop. . . .

[F]or years now supermarkets have been sprinkling select vegetables with regular drops of water--a trend that began in Denmark. Why? . . . [T]hose sprinkled drops serve as a symbolic, albeit a bogus one, of freshness and purity. Ironically, that same dewy mist makes the vegetables rot more quickly than they would otherwise.

9 comments:

Jason (the commenter) said...

I always thought it was to make the vegetables heavier, so they could charge you for water. Whenever I see it I roll my eyes.

That's how the association works in MY brain.

chickenlittle said...

There's a sexual connotation as well, I believe.

chickenlittle said...

Fecund ripeness.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Fecund ripeness perhaps, but have you noticed that Americans don't know about ripe fruit anymore? The peaches, plums, nectarines sold these days -- and I'm talking about Whole Foods and other upscale groceries -- are hard as rocks, and people don't know any better than to buy them. Avocados bear individual stickers saying, "I'm Ripe Now," and they're no such thing. Let's not even bring up "vine-ripened" tomatoes. And cheese... people buy brie that isn't bulging at the sides...I sigh for our civilization.

Indigo Red said...

I don't know about the rest of the country, but many markets here in California have added sound effects to the vegetable section. Just before the auto-sprinklers turn on there is the sound of thunder and lightning. Having grown up with large vegetable gardens in areas of lightning storms, the crashing thunder and bolts of eletricity from the sky was never an inducemnt to run toward the zuchhini.

chickenlittle said...

I don't know about the rest of the country, but many markets here in California have added sound effects to the vegetable section.

Thank goodness Trader Joe's hasn't fallen for that crap.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Price Chopper (in Albany, NY) sprinkles water with loud thunderstorm sound effects.

The article focuses mostly on a Whole Foods on New York City's Upper West Side, but I went to Whole Foods today (same city, different location) and didn't notice any vegetable sprinklers. I also bought hummus off a normal shelf; it was not placed in ice, as the article suggests. It seems like journalists love to target Whole Foods, even if their criticisms would apply with equal or more force to other supermarkets.

chickenlittle said...

Richard Lawrence Cohen said: ...but have you noticed that Americans don't know about ripe fruit anymore?

Yes. I grew up in Wisconsin. In the 1960's when I was little, there really only was fresh produce in the summer. My mother gardened, as did many people. That was most people's exposure to freshness then. Winters meant canned or jarred fruits and vegetables.

Trucks ran up from south in the winter to deliver "fresh" vegetables and shippers and grocers learned to pick things like green bananas and ship them, perhaps dousing them with a little ethylene bromide in the truck along the way (ethylene bromide decomposes to ethylene, C2H4, which is a natural plant senescence hormone).

Shipping things around by plane only started later, when the costs came down. Travel times were shorter, but farmers still picked things slightly unripe and treated accordingly.

We're quite fortunate out here in California. My tomato plants can overwinter. My wife has a friend who has land with blood oranges and avocados. Have you ever stood before an orange tree and eaten the ripened fruit, one after another? It's hard to stop.

Jason (the commenter) said...

The only thing I really miss are wild strawberries, and you could never get those in the supermarket.