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Fruit Flies Among Many Barriers To Produce Consumption

From time to time we leave a comment or two at various culinary or gastronomical blogs. One we often enjoy is called Al Dente and is part of a network of blogs maintained by These blogs are not specifically produce-related but sometimes they have picked out our comments to address as when we wrote a brief note on bluefin tuna:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blurb about tuna fish. The post got all sorts of comments, for various reasons, but one thoughtful comment from Al Dente reader Jim Prevor about bluefin sustainability caught my attention, and prompted me to do some further research.

No sooner had I read Jim’s comment than I was inundated with news about bluefin tuna everywhere I looked. I now wonder how this issue previously escaped my attention.

We also dealt with the issue of bluefin tuna depletion in this Pundit post.

Sometimes, though, these blogs do touch upon fresh produce and issues surrounding produce. Al Dente, for example, just ran a post geared for consumers titled, How To Get Rid of Fruit Flies (Low-Tech Version, High-Tech Version). In the piece, Rebekah Denn, an accomplished food writer who had been the food writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, writes about one of her frustrations with fresh produce:

The downside of juicy, ripe summer produce? It attracts swarms of pesty fruit flies, which soon multiply into mega-swarms.

The remedies I’ve tried in the past? Failures. I’ve been told to leave out a glass of wine, or try a few drops of dishwasher liquid in a container of water. What did I get? House parties of flies who seemed to particularly enjoy a nice Cabernet.

She then points out that there are various methods that can improve upon these “Low-tech” approaches and that now there is a “Hi-tech” approach:

Then Terro, the pest control company, sent over a sample of its new fruit fly trap. The trap is a little apple-shaped plastic ball, filled with a non-toxic compound (more or less vinegar and dish soap, looking at the ingredients).

It operates on the same theory as the jam jar, and also works quite well. Bonus points to the Terro device for looking a lot nicer on the countertop than a rubber-banded jam jar. I’m tempted to ding it because the contents stained my counter when my curious toddler turned it upside down… but with enough scrubbing, the stain came out, and a red wine spill would have caused problems too.

We confess that we know nothing about the Terro Fruit Fly Trap or, for that matter, this business of leaving out wine or soap to catch the flies.

What we think is interesting is that things such as this are real obstacles to increasing purchase and consumption of fresh produce. Ms. Denn is a foodie and so probably will put up with it, but there are millions of people who, if they find their fruit covered with flies, will get the message that either it should all be in the refrigerator — probably causing a significant reduction in consumption as compared to a countertop fruit bowl — or that they are buying too much and it is going rotten.

It brings to mind many of the issues that surfaced last year during the trade’s discussion of whether or not to launch a generic promotion initiative for produce.

One of things that became obvious during that process was that we actually have very little information about what are the real obstacles to increasing produce consumption. Although many believed that the health message could work if we could just get it out there with sufficient exposures, others saw flaws in the varieties the industry was selling.

This piece points out that fruit flies may be bothering consumers. PMA and other organizations have often looked for ways to increase produce consumption, and the Produce for Better Health Foundation is, in fact, charged with such an effort. Perhaps the industry has been putting the cart before the horse. Maybe PMA, for example, should fund a research program to identify the obstacles that consumers encounter in increasing consumption of fresh produce.

We have spoken about taste and flavor in our piece, Little Taste Bud, in Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS and, recently in Pundit pieces focused on apples here and here. Yet bothersome fruit flies weren’t on the radar screen. Who knows what else a proper research effort could uncover?

When we wrote about Dole’s effort to reinvent the bagged salad category here and here, what impressed us most was the degree to which the company had gone out to research and thus better understand the obstacles to consumers buying more bagged salads. Then Dole’s efforts to change its products were methodical approaches to addressing consumer needs.

Maybe Terro will solve the fruit fly problem for consumers, but it is still an industry problem to know how we delight and disappoint our customers.

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