Fruits and vegetables may get marketed like junk food

Candy, chips and soda are widely available and aggressively marketed. Can doing the same with fruits and veggies change consumers’ eating habits?

Some companies and producers are betting they can, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. Carrot farmers are now advertising packaged baby carrots with the slogan, “Eat ‘em like junk food.” A Halloween promotion for the temporarily renamed “Scarrots” includes single-serving packages and “25 temporary glow-in-the-dark tattoos of masquerading baby carrot characters.”

San Francisco is mulling restrictions on the fast-food meals that include toy giveaways — including a requirement to include fruits and vegetables. (A vote on that has been delayed until next month).

The latest frontier is the vending machine, that bastion of snacking convenience. Fresh Del Monte Produce and a vending-machine maker, the Wittern Group, collaborated on a machine specially engineered to dispense fresh-cut fruits and veggies — even easily bruised bananas.

The new machine has two temperature zones to optimally preserve both fresh-cut produce and bananas. And there’s a padded lining and angled walls to prevent bruising. The next iteration of the machine will include a “fruit elevator” to carefully deliver the products.

So, will it work? Recently released CDC stats show that among adults, only 32.5 percent are eating the recommended two or more fruit servings per day, and 26.3 percent the recommended three or more servings of vegetables. The government’s Healthy People 2010 goal was for 75 percent of Americans age 2 and up to meet the fruit recommendation, and 50 percent to meet the one for veggies.

 Will kids be drawn to carrots marketed like Doritos? One study found that kids reported they preferred carrots (as well as graham crackers and gummy fruit snacks) in packages emblazoned with Dora the Explorer, Shrek and Scooby Doo to those in plain packages. But in contrast to the crackers and gummy snacks, kids didn’t report that the carrots in the cartoon-endorsed packages tasted any better.

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