Earlier in 2014 Intermarché, the third largest supermarkets chain in France, decided to start selling imperfect fruits and vegetables at their stores, that were 30% cheaper than regular products. As food waste is a major issue in the food industry (300 million tons of food is being thrown away each year), Intermarché recognized an actionable start to put an end to it, could be made through re-educating the consumer’s view on misshapen food products. Therefore the French food retailer launched a campaign called ‘Inglorious fruits & vegetables’, which celebrates the ‘ugly’ produce that is often thrown away by growers and considered unfit for consumption.
The weird fruits & vegetables campaign became a huge success with a reach of 21 million people, and an increase of 24% overall store traffic after only one month. Main competitors adopted Intermarché’s idea, and launched a similar offer. For instance, the Dutch supermarkets chain Albert Heijn, part of Ahold, recently introduced a comparable concept, called ‘Buitenbeentjes’ (misfits) in the Netherlands. Misfits are fruits and vegetables that are normally rejected because of their looks. However, the appearance of a product doesn’t say anything about the quality, taste or tendency. Albert Heijn offers their customers a special box which contains a selection of imperfect fruits and vegetables. In return the consumer pays less for these types of food products.
Since a couple of years the European airline industry is facing a new phenomenon: low cost carriers or budget airlines. These airlines operate with greatly reduced rates. The lower prices are made possible through savings on distribution of tickets (online sales), by expiring the classical distinction between economy and business class, and by limiting the service (meals and snacks only for a fee) at the aircraft. Not only these factors are distinctive for low cost carriers. It also includes their staff approach. The high-standard service level of traditional airlines was for many years their competitive advantage. Coherent with the excellent service were the employees of the traditional airlines. Their staff policy consisted (and still consists) of strict criteria to meet the ‘picture perfect’ that marketing created. Flight attendants needed to have a representative appearance (whatever that may be), and the ladies were obligated to have pony tails no longer than a pencil. The result was a non-diverse cabin crew, all perfectly matching the airline’s physical appearance criteria.
When budget airlines, such as EasyJet and Ryanair entered the market, they decided to do things differently. Having low operational rates as unique selling point, employees with an impeccable appearance was not an issue. The low cost carriers didn’t select their staff on physical appearance in the first place, as they believed more in searching for talent with the right qualities and motivations. And to this day on, the low cost carriers are still making progress.
The key conclusion of the comparision between food and aviation in this case, is that for both industries sustainability issues were the main drivers for innovation. The supermarkets thought about how to address food waste, and came up with their branding imperfection campaign. The budget airlines were interested in attracting the most capable employees (talent attraction and staff retention) in order to create a workplace that embraces diversity (in gender, age, nationality). Both examples demonstrate how to address sustainability issues with an approach that moves beyond perfect physical appearances.
Are you interested in driving sustainable innovation from developing new business models and making your portfolio future proof? Please contact Jan van der Kaaij, Managing Partner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.
Image by: Flickr, Liz West