My wife & I went grocery shopping this weekend, and, in the produce section, I saw something I’d seen a million times before but never thought about: why are bulk oranges sold in red mesh sacks? (Talk about a MUNDANE mystery!)
It’s always safe to assume that, if any part of a food’s packaging doesn’t seem like it serves a practical purpose, then it’s more than likely some sort of marketing tactic. And that’s exactly what’s going on with the classic red mesh bag of oranges seen in supermarket produce sections. Whenever oranges aren’t being sold loose in a crate, they almost always come in red mesh bags. It may seem like plain old packaging, but it’s specially designed to make you want to buy those oranges.
The color orange “pops” when you pair it with the color red, more than it would with yellow, green, blue, or purple. So, when you see a bunch of oranges contained within a red net pattern, your brain actually sees them as more “orange” than they otherwise would on their own (and, thus, they must be fresher & better quality). The same rationale is used for bagging other fruits like grapefruits or tangerines, which are also orange in color. Red makes them pop!
Red doesn’t work for all fruits, though. Green is actually more commonly used for bagging lemons, so that the yellow rinds stand out. If lemons were sold in the same red bags as other citrus, the red and yellow hues together would actually make the fruits appear orange. Lemons can also come in yellow mesh bags, and the bags for limes are usually green to match their color.
So, the next time you visit the grocery store, see if you can spot all the ways the store is set up to influence your buying decisions. The items at eye-level will likely be more expensive than those on the shelves above and below them, and the products near the register will likely be cheaper and more appealing as impulse buys. But the oranges…they’ll always be a good buy!
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