Have you ever seen a commercial for fresh broccoli? Or fresh green beans? Or fresh zucchini? Probably not. The growers of fresh vegetables rarely have the funds to market their foods.

In fact, Michael Pollan recently came up with a new food rule after marketers hijacked his “don’t buy foods with more than five ingredients” rule. The new rule is “Don’t eat any foods you’ve ever seen advertised on television.” That’s because with a few exceptions, for example walnuts and dried prunes, real foods don’t have advertising budgets.

USA Today is reporting that baby carrots have found the money to create an ad campaign for themselves. Actually it’s the baby carrot producers, around 50 of them, who have banded together for the industry’s first ever $25 million marketing campaign to place baby carrots on equal footing with junk food.

Here are some of the tactics the marketing campaign will use.

  • Packaged in Doritos-like bags. Three different designs are planned.
  • Sold out of cool school vending machines. Tests are underway in Cincinnati and Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Sporting slogans like this on billboards and packs: "The original orange doodles."
  • Touting seasonal tie-ins. Coming this Halloween: scarrots.
  • Offering a phone app powered by the sound of folks munching carrots in real time.
  • Airing TV spots that tout baby carrots as extreme, futuristic and even, yes, sexy. 
If this gets more parents to put carrots in lunchboxes and more kids to eat carrots, then some good might come out of it. But it’s a shame that it’s going to take a campaign like this to get some parents to put carrots in their kids’ lunches. It says something to me.

To me, it says marketers are doing a good job at convincing parents that they have lost the fight to control what their children eat. It says marketers are more influential than parents when it comes to determining what children will want. It says we’ve gotten to the point where kids expect junk food — and if we want them to eat something good for them, we’d better make it mimic junk food. The kids and the marketers are in control. The parents must give in if they ever want their kid to eat a vegetable again.

My 11-year-old just walked in the room as I was writing this and asked what I was working on. When I told him he said, “If it gets kids to eat carrots, then it’s good. Carrots are really good. They’re my favorite vegetable. I love to eat them.”

Bless his pre-teen soul — he has grown up being the target of marketing, and he just made my argument for me. Kids like carrots. They like to eat them. I know this because when I put a bowl of carrots out for the five or six boys who eat lunch at my house frequently during the summer, the bowl is empty at the end of the meal.

I don’t even give them baby carrots. I take the two minutes it takes to peel whole carrots and slice them into sticks. I used to buy baby carrots, but then I realized whole carrots were better. They’re less expensive, and the carrots stay fresher longer, too. Baby carrots dry out quickly once the package has been opened. Whole carrots that are peeled as needed stay brightly colored orange and full of moisture.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Are measures like this necessary to get kids to eat raw carrots — a food most kids like anyway? 

Also on MNN: How to grow carrots

MNN homepage photo: DJM-photo/iStockphoto

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Carrots get a marketing campaign
In their competition for the lunchbox, baby carrots get some PR and parents get the shaft.