Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Colombian National Department of Planning shows that Colombians waste approximately 6.1 million tons of food annually, with fruits and vegetables accounting for 40% of this waste.
Among the reasons for the staggering amount of waste is the short life cycle of fruits and vegetables, caused by the common misconception that ripe produce is unusable.
To combat this attitude, Dutch-owned cash-and-carry wholesaler Makro and Grey Colombia, Bogotá, created stickers featuring recipe suggestions tailored to the degree of ripeness of fruits and vegetables. The Life Extending Stickers look just like usual branded stickers, except they mimic the colour of each food item at various points of its ripeness journey. For example, a banana’s sticker goes from green to yellow to brown and finally black, with a serving or cooking suggestion over each colour – in the banana’s case the copy reads (in order of ripeness) fried, ice cream, tempura, cupcake.
‘We wanted to generate a simple yet powerful change in people’s behaviour, to educate about responsible consumption of fruits and vegetables,’ Juan Yepes, marketing director at Makro Colombia told Contagious. ‘The insight was that when fruits and vegetables’ aspect isn’t “perfect”, that is the stage when they become more delicious, but people miss it for preconceived cosmetic reasons.’
The stickers launched in April 2023 and are in use in 22 Makro stores across Colombia during ‘Market Wednesdays and Sundays’. The campaign included a variety of recipes showcased on Makro’s Instagram account.
Results / The case study forecasts that the campaign will extend the average lifetime of fruit and veg by six more days, and create 70 tons less food waste a week (stores and homes combined). The campaign won a Gold in the Outdoor category at the 2023 Cannes Lions Festival.
Contagious Insight /
Less is more / This campaign is a great example of the creative potential of simple ideas. With the Life Extending Stickers, Makro didn’t try to impress with eye-catching tech or a shiny new app. It used something as banal as food stickers as a tool to combat food waste. Out of something ordinary, the brand created a low-tech, low-cost new media space to broadcast its message and drive behaviour change. Where an app would entail having to do a few things to retrieve the preparation suggestions, having stickers directly on the produce removes barriers to getting the necessary information, making the waste-reduction tool easily accessible to everyone.
‘Printed in its traditional size of 1x1 inches, with no need of technology only the help of colours, the stickers showed Colombians an easy way for them to use their fruits and vegetables from beginning to end. In this case, small is gigantic, because in advertising or communications in general, could there be a smaller media than a sticker? This demonstrates how powerful our industry is, it can change behaviour with a Super Bowl ad or a 1x1 inch piece,’ Juan Jose Posada, CCO at Grey Colombia told Contagious.
Follow the money / The huge amount of food waste isn’t just a sustainability nightmare, it’s also a business problem for retailers such as Makro. To reduce losses on perfectly edible products that aren’t being bought, the cash-and-carry wholesaler extended the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables. By highlighting the versatility of the products and showcasing their various uses at different stages, consumers are more likely to consider purchasing them beyond their usual preference for ripeness. This approach expands the window for selling and drives increased sales by making foods that people usually wouldn’t consider purchasing more desirable, enabling the business to bring produce into store earlier and continue selling them for longer.
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