That's right - coming to a supermarket or mini mart near you, a sparkling, vibrantly colored, themed bag of....carrots. It's the idea of farmers who have banded together to promote a variety of vegetables with the strategy used by processed snack manufacturers. Make it look hip and cool and add in a tongue in cheek advertising promotion and confess to selling carrots in junk food packaging and hopefully kids will buy it and like it. For that matter, maybe parents too.
The target audience of consumption for this new fast food is kids and young adults and vending machines are included in the plan. So the million dollar question asked in the New York Times magazine column was, "What happens when these young consumers open the bag and find out they've got carrots and not some hip chip?? According to the column, though carrotmania will likely not sweep through the nation, the campaign idea may not be off base. A study back in 2007 showed that kids presented with carrots in plain, unmarked bags were found less interesting and far less product was eaten, compared to carrots in bags that looked like they were from McDonalds. In fact, fries and milk also "tasted better" when they came from McDonald's packaging. So researchers concluded that taste and preferences are both in some way enhanced by branding
The lead researcher of the latest study is still skeptical that the results can somehow be harnessed to help brand veggies as "cool and better tasting," though he does acknowledge that the world of advertising and branding makes for an "unfair playing field." He'd rather see restrictions on marketing to kids then have vegetable companies trying to compete with these processed food influences. The carrot campaign is using current technology, which means a baby-carrot iPhone app and Twitter feeds will follow. The marketing tactic is using an "insider's joke" ploy, even trying to convince kids and teens to eat carrots so they are insiders on the irony and joke of junk food branding for vegetables.
So let's get real and acknowledge that for some time experts in the arena of nutrition have always suggested that food tastes better with better presentation. You can put a bowl of fruit on the table, or you can skewer different fruits and actually "present it." You can also offer healthy dipping sauces for fun and grill fruit to make it look exotic and create new taste versions. Then again, we can get Dora the Explorer or Elmo to be the new face of baby carrots, which means that a positive, already established theme gets connected to a healthy food. What's wrong with that? In fact, when in Rome do as the Romans do, can be applied to mean that branding, use of positive characters and cute and hip themes, may help kids to get excited about eating vegetables.
Now how are we going to get adults on the same veggie wagon??