Sticking points

Lemon-PH

Lemon

Some businesspeople label the fruits of their labour.

I think this is great in some cases.

But I draw the line when the fruits are … fruit.

Here’s a quick analysis to see if you agree.

Firm foundation

Some hand-made clay bricks from Roman times bear the impression ‘Felix fecit’.

This means ‘made by Felix’.

Not only was Felix the brick maker a proud artisan with a keen sense of branding, he even learnt Latin to address his target audience.

To that I cry ‘Optime!’^

On the fence

When I walk Melbourne streets, I occasionally pass beautifully wrought fences.

Often there’s a tasteful plaque, fixed at eye level, with the maker’s name and address.

As I read these, I think that if I ever have a property grand enough for such a construction, it’d be a deep pleasure to contact such an apparent master.

Site lines

When my Primary IT Guy finished my website, I encouraged him to add his tag, which is still there today.

In return, he features my website on his.

This seems eminently fair and sensible.

Sour grapes

But when I go to the grocer, I’m dismayed.

The bananas bear stickers that say ‘Banana’.

The apples have stickers that say ‘Apple’.

And the lemons have stickers that say ‘Lemon’.

A few stickers have logos – meaningless by themselves.

Fewer have brand names (which merely remind me who to avoid next time).

Almost none have contact details, thus negating the only purpose of stickers I can conceive.

(Perhaps you have other ideas.)

These plastic plaques make me feel my mind is fading so fast that I need food recognition aids.

Pacific Coast Eco Bananas, as we’ve seen, are infinitely more sophisticated.

Wasted

I don’t know if food stickers are biodegradable, so I remove them before composting.

Often they end up in my sink (or down it, if I’m not quick enough).

I ponder the vast effort it must have taken to design machines to plaster polymers on nature’s bounty.

I fear my purchases contribute to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Most of all,

I simply wonder …

Why?!

Stick up

What do you think?

Do you label your goods or services?

Why (not)?

Does labelling work?

Have all businesspeople the right to do it?

Or should our grocers be green?

Are food stickers a permanent fixture?

Or is this brand tactic

a lemon?

* Photo by me.

^ Nice work, Squadron Leader!

| Founder & Senior Writer – The Feisty Empire

  • http://www.resourcedleaders.com Phil Owens

    Hi Paul,

    I would be intersted to know if there is a ‘compliance’ reason for the labelling – which is often the case in many industries. THe question then becomes – how do you make what MUST be done and turn it into something with value to the end customer/consumer?

    One upside of the labels is when I get to the check-out, the kid doing his training on the scanner can look and say ‘oh, this is a banana, not black truffles’ and punch in the correct code so I only get charged $1.59/kg, rather than $1590.00/kg.

    • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

      That is a killer comment, Phil! 😀

      You set me up a beauty. There I was, formulating a rant about the heavy hand of government regulation, and you pull out a sneaky, clever gourmet joke!

      Excellent food for thought. (Though I must take you to task over your use of gender-specific langage and your inconsistent use of decimal places.)

      That said, I give it a 9.71! 😉 Enough for … GOLD! 😛

  • http://www.writefish.com.au Adam Finlay

    It does seem mysterious. Why bother? Although in this case, with a sticker saying ‘Lemon’ on your orange there, it’s doubly confusing. I must admit, though, I have a lot of trouble at the fruit shop regardless.

    • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

      You are a very funny man, Adam. A result, I imagine, of being funny ha ha and funny stange at the same time. A potent combination if ever I saw one.

      I don’t doubt for an instant that if I said tomato, you’d say tomato.

      All part of life’s rich

      tapastry. 😉

  • Malcolm Owens

    Hi Paul,

    This is a question of branding v mindless rubbish.

    The first, when done correctly, can add perceived value to the item and create a sense of loyalty based on the promise conveyed by the brand which, in this case, may be organic, freshness guarantee, grown in Australia or pesticide free. Not sure about the waxed dipped bananas as I see that as an added cost of no value that I pay for but it’s nice to have quality assured Australian produce.

    On the other side of the grapefruit is the meaningless sticker that does nothing but annoy everyone. Why, when it serves no purpose? Is it some form of crazy political correctness? Yes this is a banana and it says it on the label so if you are allergic to bananas you can’t sue us if you ate it by mistake thinking it was a pawpaw.

    Give me a break. Have you heard those annoying radio ads where the disclaimer at the end in rushed unintelligible English listing all the fees, charges, conditions, exclusions and requirements: they are almost as long as the ad! Do we really need all this?

    Is a sticker on your lemon the last straw?

    • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

      Hi, Malcolm. I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word for it that once you’ve had your bananas dipped in wax, you can never go back.

      What is it with you and Adam?! ‘Grapefruit’ is even further from the mark. No more priced-to-clear shiitake mushrooms for you, Mate!

      Great point re the disclaimer. I was trying to work out why my browser wouldn’t let me into eBay after I upgraded my operating system. Foiled by the usual channels, I tried social media.

      The company in question, to its credit, gave me a direct line. But the first thing I got was a long LONG terms and conditions recording. It was so long, I had time to ask on Twitter how long it was.

      Anyway, I didn’t proceed.

      Thank you very much for playing! :)

      WARNING: may contain traces of childhood Spirograph greeting cards gone wrong.

  • Nikki

    Dear Paul,

    I have to say I’m not a fan of the sticker. Firstly I KNOW what sort of apples I am purchasing (nine times out of ten at the self-serve checkout my supermarket favours). Secondly, being the mother of two fruit-loving lads – I find stickers everywhere and yes I mean everywhere. My vacuum is as incapable of collecting them as my sons are of actually popping them in the bin. The classic though is the apple sticker on the Apple sticker on Matt’s mirror in his room…
    Ban the sticker I say – they’re rubbish…

    • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

      Dear Nikki, I’m thrilled to the core you’ve paid us a return visit. :)

      The apple sticker on the Apple Sticker is better than fiction. And the fact it’s on a mirror makes me wish I could define ‘existential’.

      Thanks so much for paring back the layers of your family life. Though bittersweet, I must say it’s highly appealing.

      Best regards indeed! P. 😛

  • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

    A great Twitter comment and even greater blog post from @stellaorbit

    ‘Get your fruit from the farmers’ markets. Not a sticker in sight.’

    http://stellaorbit.com/2011/08/farmers-and-their-markets/

    Thank you VERY much! :)

  • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

    And this via Twitter from John Price @PriceyJohnDoe

    ‘There’s Aussie legislation about labeling country of origin on fruit/veg, but labeling a lemon ‘lemon’ is just pointless.

    ‘So the important part of the sticker is ‘product of X’, but maybe the fruitname description is for the retailer’s reference?

    ‘But to your point, yes it seems ridiculous and wasteful!

    ‘I think the legislation is at the state level in oz. it’s to do with clear labeling of retail fmcg products.’

    If anyone can expand on John’s thought-provoking perspective, I’d be jolly grateful. And a big thanks to John for joining us. :)

  • http://www.wordconstructions.com.au/blog Tash Hughes

    I don’t like those silly fruit stickers either Paul – such a waste and it just annoys fruit eaters (especially on fruit you don’t have to peel!) :)

    Now Felix had foresight – his product is still around whereas that poor lemon will be long gone before the decade is up let alone hundreds of years! I think there’s a big difference between putting your name on something you created (like the brick!) and just labelling for the sake of it.

    • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

      Thank you Tash.

      The other thought your comment just triggered in my brain is that Felix actually ‘crafted’ his brick, whereas the lemon people merely ‘grew’ theirs.

      Or is that offensive to lemon growers? I hear citrus trees need pretty particular conditions to thrive. And if you live up Mildura way, the whole exercise can be particularly heartbreaking when drought, imports and water restrictions see you ripping out 40 years of work.

      Admitedly, Felix did start with clay (or at least dust and water). At what point does our human input give us ownership rights?

      Thanks to you and others, I see this issue is deeper than I first thought.

      I wonder where we’ll end up?! Best regards, as always. :)

  • Desolie

    In the good old days when there were fewer varieties of fruits – all of which were familiar to greengrocers – labelling was not needed. Today both consumers and checker-outerers ‘need’ labels.

    However, on the broader issue of labelling (or branding) I always make sure my name and email are on every page of hand-outs at my workshops – very discreetly of course. They probably won’t be around for as long as Felix’s brick, but I want potential clients to be able to find me.

    Now where are those unstickered strawberries? Uh-o! The chocolate is branded!!

    • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

      Hi, Desolie! I love hearing about the good old days, though doing so creates a sense of ennui.

      I hadn’t thought of your point, which is all the more remarkable given that food varieties are falling like skittles as we hurtle towards bland (and dangerous) monocultures.

      We have 6 types of apple instead of 60, yet people on both sides of the counter AND upstairs need to be told which is which. So sad!

      Smart move on your branding. I’m also most impressed with our Carol’s photo watermarks: http://ow.ly/i/Pslg

      I worry that every time I put one of my shots online, someone is making a free greeting card out of it.

      Yet John Slaytor, as a purist, can’t bear the thought of marking his images:

      http://therestlessphotographer.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/charlies-competition/

      It seems there are as many takes on this as there are creators.

      Thanks very much for such a fecund and fertile comment, D! :)

      • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

        By way of clarification, I mean there are fewer varieties of each type of food worldwide, but more types of food in our stores.

        I can see that a work experience check-out kid might need to help identifying a starfruit or lychee. But I find it sad that we can’t access the hundreds of wild potato species that used to flourish: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato

        If something goes bung with our Desirees, Pontiacs and a few other staples, we’re stufffed.

      • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

        As you can see here, there are exceptions to every rule:

        http://therestlessphotographer.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/post-mortem-of-a-shoot/

  • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing
  • http://copybreak.com.au Anna @ Copybreak

    I share your pain Paul. Having peeled the stickers off 4 kg of apples to make a recent batch of cider, I was cursing everyone of those stickers for slowing down the process. I also resent the wax they coat our apples with… as a farm girl, I appreciate the natural matte finish of an apple picked directly off the tree. One your teeth won’t slide off!

    How I long for the day our fledgling orchard will be large enough to produce sufficient fruit for me to once again enjoy it in its natural state (I just harvested our first crop of lemons and the flavour difference was incredible!)

    On the flip side, however, while I’m still beholden to buy our fruit from the local greengrocer, there is some comfort in knowing that I’m buying Australian produce… as advertised on those annoying little stickers. But I say, bring on the laser tagging! (Assuming, of course, it doesn’t adversely affect the quality of the fruit).

    • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

      What a juicy comment, Anna! Let me pick over your fine produce.

      First, thank you for your view on stickers. I know little about the wax; is it for show? Or does it kill critters? Should we be washing it off before we eat?

      Second, go you with your own orchard! Jealous jealous jealous! :)

      Third, I get you on the all-natural approach. Next door’s lemons beat bought ones hands down. And there’s something so satisfying about plucking them from the branch that hangs over our fence.

      Fourth, I’m totally with you on being a locavore. When I buy garlic, I pay 300% more for the privilege. How do I know it’s not from South America? There’s a little card at the front of each section showing point of origin. Not a sticker in sight. So why can’t we have cards for all food?

      Fifth, laser tagging sure was the surprise find of this season.

      Thanks a bunch for your bountiful contribution. :)

      • http://copybreak.com.au Anna @ Copybreak

        As far as I know, Paul, the wax on apples is purely to make them look shiny and pretty. What ever happened to buffing it up against your shirt?

        And as with any fruit bought in a store, it’s best to give it a good wash before you eat it. After all, how many other hands have plucked over that same piece of fruit after the owner may have been blowing their nose or handling money? (which is an absolute cesspit for bacteria!) Not to mention any other nasties that may have been applied to the produce before you buy it.

        At least the bit covered by the sticker may have been afforded some extra protection..! 😉

      • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

        Stickers as sanitary band aids? Now I’ve heard everything!

        And by crikey I’ll be washing my tucker more thoroughly from now on. I never thought of all that stuff going on. Eeek!

        Thank you for expanding, Anna. You certainly have a … powerful turn of phrase there! :)

  • http://www.interfaceaustralia.com Carol Jones

    PAUL,

    Greetings from rural Australia.

    I’m IN FAVOUR of labels on fruit and vegetables.

    Because.

    I’m a rural gal and am very conscious of where food is grown. And whether or not it’s from my local region.

    Living in the beautiful Central Tablelands of NSW, Orange NSW was, at one stage, the fruit bowl of Australia. Before the canneries and the wholesalers turned to Asia and other developing countries for cheaper produce.

    Not safer. Many pesticides are used in those countries that are not allowed to be used in Australia.

    But cheaper.

    I’ve seen many orchards in Nashdale NSW and further south in Leeton NSW bulldozed because the fruit they produced couldn’t be sold.

    And vineyards planted in their place.

    Which are now in such oversupply, the grapes are left to wither on the vine. Because it’s too expensive to bulldoze them. There’s nothing to take their place.

    Which is why I’m in favour of stickers/labels/et al that tell me that the produce I’m buying is a product of Australia. And nowhere else.

    Because if we don’t support our local growers, we won’t have a food supply to rely on when the rest of the world is in drought. As is the case now in North America.

    Also, imported fresh food is fumigated. Which is why I refuse to buy any garlic not grown in Australia. And lean towards organic fruit and vegetables grown in Australia, if available.

    There is, of course, a cost to all of this. And I’m always disappointed in the public for not wanting to pay for food security. And food safety. And be willing to pay a fair price to a farmer for their toils. Just as everyone in the city wants to make a good wage. So do farmers and their families.

    Off that soapbox.

    Onto another one.

    My premium greengrocer in Bathurst has far more than 6 apple varieties on offer. And I love that apples and bananas and other fruit tell me what ‘model’ they are. So when I try something different, and make a decision to never buy it again – or yes, I will buy it again – I can save the sticker and put it on the next shopping list so I know what I’m avoiding or choosing.

    And, as has been previously pointed out, the young men and women at the checkout, who appear to have only ever seen fresh fruit and vegetables on the checkout conveyor belt, know what it is without me having to enlighten them.

    It’s been 20 years since I was a city girl and can barely remember what it was like. But do remember having the distinct impression that ‘farmers are whingers’.

    Now that I’m a committed rural gal, I still think that SOME farmers are whingers. And perhaps have a case to whinge about. But many more farmers are now proactive and committed to putting labels on their fruit and vegetables so the consumer can make a choice.

    And switched on meat producers now tell me what sort of pasture grass their cows and sheep and deer graze on. And what their pigs are fed. And how their chickens are raised. And how it affects the taste.

    And when I see a growing region on the label as well, I know these are farmers who love what they do. And I LOVE buying from someone who takes pride in their produce.

    I’m an addicted foodie. Living and working from my remote rural property where I have to drive 80km to buy a litre of milk, I cook all our meals. And am very conscious of what I buy. I’m also smack in the middle of two fabulous food growing regions. Mudgee and Orange. So perhaps I’m spoiled. And being surrounded by a population of growers and producers who care deeply about food, sticky labels are, to me, as important on fresh produce as on the car I drive.

    As always, Paul, you provoke the most intriguing responses.

    Best wishes and take care,

    Carol❤

    Carol Jones
    Director
    Interface Pty Ltd
    Designers of The Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Cover
    Made with love and care in rural Australia by men and women who have a disability

    Ironing Diva’s stories are at http://bit.ly/TheIroningDiva

    PS. I do appreciate your comment on the watermark on my photos. I did see a swag of my photos on a website in America. With no attribution to me. Within a nanosecond, I created a ‘label’!

    • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

      Dear Carol. Yet again, we strike Golden Delicious with you!

      As you’ve just taught me more in one comment than I learnt in all my research for this topic, I hereby present you with this biodynamic apple for the teacher. :)

      You know I prize differing views in this forum. Especially those as authentic and well articulated as yours.

      I found myself nodding in agreement with almost everything you said.

      My sole point of difference is, why bugger it up with stickers? Is there no better way?

      But I’m repeating myself. What’s vastly more important than my carping is the sweeping world view you’ve brought to this debate. The massive themes you’ve touched upon are eventually going to bite us all, wherever we live and whatever we think. So thank you VERY much for taking your customary time and effort to broaden our discussion.

      Best regards, P. :)

      • http://www.interfaceaustralia.com Carol Jones

        PAUL,

        Greetings again from rural Australia.

        I graciously accept your biodynamic apple. And having just bitten into its crispy flesh, its crunch is to die for!!

        Food security and safety is swiftly becoming a major issue in rural Australia. Perhaps not so in the cities, but we see farmers losing market share to cheap imports all the time. And we are incensed at apples arriving from New Zealand that have the potential to spread Apple Blight. And wipe out the Australian apple industry.

        All in the name of giving consumers ‘choice’ and cheaper options.

        Australia is too small a country not to look after our own.

        As an immigrant, I can see both sides of the globalisation issue.

        But as someone who deeply adores this land, I have a rather selfish view. Now that I’m on the bus, pull the cord, lock the doors and keep the riff raff out!

        Best wishes and take care,

        Carol❤

        Carol Jones
        Director
        Interface Pty Ltd
        Designers of The Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Cover
        Made with love and care in rural Australia by men and women who have a disability

        Ironing Diva’s stories are at http://bit.ly/TheIroningDiva

  • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

    Thank you, Carol. Your passionfruit is noted (and incorporated into our healthy debate). :)

  • Alison Treloar

    Hi Paul,

    I’m with Carol – remember the hideous “Great Wall Apples” that came from China and everyone got up in arms about importing food – rightly so, but noone gives a second sniff when they buy a US.

    I’d like to take the stickers one step further and see “date picked”. Green Eggs puts “laid date” on their eggs, so why can’t fruit producers put “date picked” – then we’ll know that they are fresh, and not last year’s frozen apples.

    Ali

    • Alison Treloar

      “a US”? That would be a US Orange

      • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing

        Nice to hear from you, Ali. (Points to Carol! :) )

        By Green Eggs, do you mean http://www.greeneggs.net.au/about.asp ?

        Date picked: what a great idea! So much food is wasted due to ‘use-by’ dates. As if a sealed sachet of cheese sauce powder will EVER go off – let alone at midnight on the appointed date.

        I like your thinking, Ali, and am glad you joined us. :)

  • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/ Paul Hassing