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Excess fruit, veg packaging deters customers

A new study has revealed that excess packaging on fruit and vegetables is putting customers off a healthy diet. The Dutch experiment found consumers are twice as likely to pick healthy food if it isn't coated in cellophane and plastic wrapping- even in the case of organic food where it cost one-and-a-half times as much.

Dutch scientists from Wageningen University, said: 'Consumers' ideal fruit and vegetables are unpacked: it is easier to touch the product, which is both rewarding by itself and a way to check quality, consumers do not need to buy a pre-set amount but are free to choose any number of items, and consumers may perceive less environmental impact of packaging.

'The latter might be especially important for organic options, where unpacked products may fit better with the environmental product image of the product.'

The study took two groups of shoppers through a simulated 3D supermarket where they had to fill their shopping trollies with an assortment of fruit and vegetables.

The produce was split between packed organic products, unpacked non-organic products, and a mixture in which the non-organics were packed, and the organics packed. They were then asked how packaging influenced their food shopping habits.

The study, published in the journal Food Quality and Preference, found that: 'The current study identifies positive effects of not packaging products at all.

'Unpacked fruit and vegetables are preferred over packed options overall, both for organic and non-organic products.

'We conclude that removing the primary packaging of organic fruit and vegetables appears to be a promising intervention in attempts to increase organic sales.

'How a food product is packaged can influence consumers' taste impressions, generate emotional responses, and predispose consumers to purchase.

'Although packaging clearly has distinct advantages for consumers in terms of convenience, food safety, and information, there is also empirical evidence that consumers dislike packaging.'

The study concluded that it could cut food waste and encourage a healthier lifestyle: 'Offering fruit and vegetables unpacked allows consumers to touch these products directly, which they generally appreciate, allows consumers to determine the amount of products they buy more freely, and may lower the perceived environmental impact of consuming the product.

'Research on product packaging should thus take the option of offering products unpacked into account when possible.'

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