A couple of years ago, I was standing by the fruit stalls at my local Whole Foods. I’d made a deal with myself that if I completed my run, I was allowed one of their berry pots with yogurt and granola. As I stood there trying to choose, my eye caught a row of plastic jars I hadn’t noticed before. Inside each container was a bright, juicy, peeled orange.
Now, I have bought my fair share of prepared fruit over the years. And whenever I’m lucky enough to be staying in a nice hotel, I order the grapefruit or orange for breakfast, because I love citrus fruits, but detest peeling them. I don’t mind preparing a hundred potatoes for Christmas lunch or chopping endless amounts of onions and lemon grass for a curry, but I can’t deal with citrus peeling. Rationally, the orange in the jar looked like my dream come true.
Emotionally, I had a different reaction. A weird stab of sadness at the thought of the orange sitting there without its cover; a final separation of nature from a most natural product now trapped in plastic hell. The price tag said £2, but that was the least of my concerns; the orange was peeled to perfection. It was intact without a hint of the dreaded white stuff. Somebody had been hard at work with the tweezers.
I left the store with my breakfast pot and no orange (as I only ever carry three pounds when I go for a run), but the mental picture of a shelf of peeled fruits stayed with me, and a few days later, I found myself back in Whole Foods buying a peeled orange in a plastic container. It was delicious with a perfectly balanced taste, beautiful texture and no white stuff. But at the back of my mind I still felt a little nag.
I forgot about the peeled oranges until a year or so later when I read that they had landed Whole Foods in a Twitter storm. Commentators were outraged by the ‘waste’, the impact of the unnecessary packaging on the environment, the lazy and privileged punters, and so on. Having had a reaction to it myself, I kind of got their point, but was still very surprised to see that Whole Foods pulled the product. It seemed like a random decision, considering all the other prepared items available everywhere, and also a little pathetic for a large company to let angry internet users dictate its product line.
Surely, provided they’re legal, stores should be able to sell whatever goods they like, if somebody is prepared to pay for them. Or what? I still haven’t quite made up my mind..
PS: The story didn’t end with the withdrawal. Repercussions soon followed from Twitter users with disabilities such as severe arthritis. Incapable of peeling their own oranges, they were understandably upset that the product was no longer available to them.