Branding produce

One of the things I missed upon returning to the US was being able to eat from a big “Netz” of clementines around Christmastime. We never had clementines growing up and I never remembered seeing them anywhere either. Mandarins were something that came in a can (it seems a clementine is a type of mandarin; I had to look it up since I was never sure if the reverse was true of if they were just synonyms). By the time I returned in 2008, there were clementines to be had, but they were expensive and not consistently good (though they’re not always consistent in Europe either).

Clementines and other kinds of mandarins now seem to have taken off, with “Cuties” everywhere this past winter. In case you weren’t aware, “Cuties” are a brand of clementines marketed as being perfect for kids. The idea of branding a fruit really gets under my skin, and I make a point of not buying “Cuties” or any other citrus advertised by a brand name. I once even swore at my mom for saying she had bought a box of “Cuties.”

And now I’ve finally run across a report about the subject of branding fruit. Smithsonian magazine has started a series on this and related topics:

We’ll look at decades of experimentation in plant genetics geared toward improving the user interface of the mandarin; the novelty of marketing fresh fruits and vegetables; the rise, fall, and comeback of graphic design in the produce aisle; and growers’ ongoing battle to keep bees from trespassing and pollinating their seedless crops.

Here’s the introduction and the first article in the series. Via the New York Times Diner’s Journal blog.