6/18/13

Fruit Cocktail . . .

The natural lighting makes it look all the more appetizing, no?
If you cruise the canned fruit and vegetable aisle of your local grocery store (and you should - canned and frozen produce is often better, nutritionally, than their "fresh" counterparts as they are generally bought and packaged during the peak of that particular crop's freshness (when supply is highest and costs is lowest) and are almost always a better value - Sean C. Amore Grocery Shopping Tips, 2013. All Rights Reserved.) you will probably at least pause at the canned/jarred Fruit Cocktail. And I say probably because, let's be honest, no one doesn't at least have familiarity with the stuff.

It was a staple, for many of us, in school lunches. It was a common ingredient to camp outings when I was in Scouts. It can frequently be found swimming in Jell-O salads. It sits well in "Jungle Juice" punches in college dorm rooms. It has a little something "for everyone" and it is, arguably, nutritionally sound for children and adults alike. I'll say, candidly, it is a staple in my home (the no sugar added Kroger brand - Del Monte if it is on sale (they have a "Very Cherry" mix that provides EIGHT cherries per can vs. just six)). The kiddo and I both enjoy it and can eat it largely guilt free (not that either one of us has any concept of food guilt at this point in our maturation process).

Why am I rambling on about Fruit Cocktail? No. Seriously. I'm asking. WHY?

Oh, oh, oh . . . right . . . it is horrible muck that is some least-common-denominator crap in a can where something for everyone, a low price point, the argument that it is fruit (healthy) and the romance ties we might have for it from various life experiences all combines to make it a top-selling item (my fake research shows 3.45 BILLION servings per year are sold/consumed in just the states of Missouri, Kansas, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania annually) for no apparent reason at all.

And why does THAT deserve a blog post? Because this is how the world works. This is the peace that shall settle on you - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon . . . there is no such thing as something that is designed, packaged, priced, marketed, and presented to the masses that will not enjoy market share on the back end. Apply this to canned fruit, motor vehicles, fashion statements, job applicants, corporate cultures, or musical composition and the results will remain the same.

So WHY do all of us rage against fruit cocktail? WHY do we have to have "personal brands" that make us as distinct and different as possible (often in ways that seem very pretentious and unattractive)? WHY do marketers run after "USPs" and "target audience research" and "niche opportunities" to differentiate? WHY do we (mere mortals) pretend like we would much rather ONLY eat peach segments or pineapple coins (metaphorically or literally) if we can have a medley? WHY don't we all just try to become the beige colored, fruit cocktail of the world?

Because that would be horrible. For all of us. If we all just liked/wanted/did/said/ate the same things we'd all be the same. And every bedtime story we were ever told, every history lesson learned, every magazine article thumbed-over, and piece of advice we were ever given would fall flat and make us unsure of the point.

I'll say this - I LOVE me some canned fruit cocktail. I'd eat it daily. I'd argue and negotiate (with another adult - not my child) over who gets the cherries. I'll even admit to once (or twice) cracking a can of it in the middle of the night and slurping it, room temperature, from the can with a spoon over the sink with not even the 'fridge or sink light to illuminate my weakness. But that's just me. That's my "brand" coming through.  Sure, sure . . . I KNOW I should prefer grapefruit, or blueberries, or grapples. I should probably make sure every fruit piece I consume is organic, "heritage," and cancer-free. I get that admitting to being "of the people" is cliche and something we marketers don't really encourage. I know all this, and more. But as a person who is described as an "acquired taste" a "strong personality" a "man of great passion" and a "truly unique addition to a team" - I have to allow that at least every now and again . . . I'm just like the rest of you. I'm normal. I like fruit cocktail.