No joke. According to the Wall Street Journal, food companies are pushing for grocery stores to help them sell their products… by using fresh produce to make their processed, packaged foods seem healthy. Grocery stores are understandably worried that this could damage their credibility with customers.
According to the Journal, the produce aisle is now the place to be, if you’re a food company concerned with making sales:
The produce section has become the equivalent of the popular kids’ school-lunch table. The area is increasingly located near the supermarket entrance, so every shopper passes through it. And stores are finding that consumers consider even packaged foods placed there to be fresher and higher quality—researchers call this a “halo effect.”
So companies want to display their products—cheese, chips, cookies—next to things like tomatoes, avocados and lettuce. This would “play up the fresh factor” according to Kraft foods’ director of shopper insights and category development.
But the Journal also notes that grocery stores aren’t all flocking to the idea of providing free, deceptive marketing for big food companies like Kraft:
Still, most grocers aren’t eager to bring items other than fresh food into the produce section. “We really want to try to keep the balance between what we would perceive as fresh produce” and dry grocery items or processed food, says Craig Ignatz, vice president of produce and floral at Giant Eagle Inc., a supermarket company with locations throughout the eastern U.S. “There has to be a good reason,” like a recent display that put Tostitos Tortilla Chips next to guacamole ingredients like avocados, he says.
Doh! I’m pretty sure I’ve let those chip and guac displays reel me in before, too. So moral of the story: If you start to notice non-perishable or packaged products in the produce aisle: be warned. It’s not a fruit or vegetable just because it’s next to one.