Food, Glorious Food

French Supermarket Intermarché Seeks to Change our Wasteful Ways with a Tasty, Gold Cube Winning Campaign

If you’ve ever eaten a fruit or vegetable, this story is for you. The “Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables” campaign from Intermarché cleverly tries to get you to buy ugly looking food that tastes just fine. Winning a Gold Cube for Advertising and Integrated at the 94th Annual Awards, we speak to ECD of Marcel WWDimitri Guerassimov, to find out how they did it. 


If there is one thing I am at fault for, it’s not reading the newspaper from end to end on weekdays. I rely on Twitter feeds and try to get two or three Longform articles in on my commute to and from work. It’s not an excuse for being uninformed, but it is an excuse to watch John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight where he recaps the big stories in a satirical rant. In last week’s episode, Oliver exposes America’s culture of food waste, laying out the astonishing amount of food per person we discard in this country, how we’ve been fooled into thinking those best before dates actually mean something, plus other stomach-churning facts for which we are all collectively to blame. ‘But that’s not the point.’ That is, not just America’s food waste, but also that of Europe, which makes it a global issue, which makes the “Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables” campaign from Intermarché so timely and universally important.

Each year, we throw over 300 million tons of fruits and vegetables away worldwide. Why? Mainly because of how they look. As the European Union made 2014 the year against food waste, Intermarché the 3rd largest supermarket chain in France, decided to try and change their customers perceptions to encourage better behaviors towards the non-calibrated fruits and vegetables. How? By hatching a campaign to rehabilitate the imperfect fruits and vegetables, celebrating the beauty of the ridiculous potato, the hideous orange and the failed lemon. For the very first time, a supermarket decided to change the way the system works. Intermarché  bought from its growers the products they usually throw away, and sold them in stores just like any others, but 30% cheaper to make it attractive to its consumers.

“There was nothing but challenges along the way. Not a single thing — from the birth of the idea to its implementation in the Intermarché business processes — was an easy win. So let’s say, the biggest challenge was not giving up. But now we know it was worth continuing the fight. We won a Gold Cube!”

I mean, who actually cares what your carrot looks like if it’s peeled, chopped and boiled down to a soup? It may not be as pretty, but it tastes just as good. “Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables” — the ridiculous potato, the hideous orange and yes, even the failed lemon — got their own print and film campaign, their own local poster and radio campaign, in-store branding, in-store-aisle, labeling, and their own spots on the sale receipt. Intermarché designed and distributed inglorious vegetables soups and inglorious fruit juices in stores.

“When the campaign aired and the first shop was delivered with the Inglorious fruits and veggies, we came to shoot in-store. The future of the product and the campaign was at stake: will the people buy the Inglorious? So we came and saw the aisle and the product… and we were really scared. The product was so ugly, we thought ‘we’re dead’. People are never going to believe us that despite their looks, they’re great! But fortunately people did, and we were very quickly sold out. It’s a very powerful experience to be facing in real time the connection between an idea, a campaign, and actual people. It’s a very strong reality check.”

What became even more real was the campaigns impending success – nothing short of gloriously incredible. Within the first days of the launch in March 2014, the point of sales traffic increased by 24%. Consumers’ feedback was positive, selling 1.2 tons on average per store during the first two days. A case study has 4 million views on YouTube and 2 M Facebook fans like the campaign that has gone on to win international accolades, including a Gold Cube, and in October 2014, months after the initial launch, Intermarché was elected “Champion of Advertising Innovation” in France.

Casting the outcasts of the grocery store shelf, the produce in the posters is au naturel. “We needed to make those fruit and vegetables appealing in spite of their ugliness and present them in the most flattering and yummy way. So, as we were shooting, we decided to treat them as characters, and make beautiful portraits of each one of them almost as if we wanted to show their inner beauty. The photography was one of the key elements of this campaign, so we asked one of the world’s best photographers, Patrice de Villiers, to help us with this very tricky task. It was an incredible challenge to present such disfigured products in a way that people find them appealing and overcome the spontaneous unwillingness to buy them.”

And if that gleaming purple skin of a bulbous eggplant does not convince you to buy it, the copy will at least surely will make you laugh.

I think it’s safe to say that we as people who live in the world and eat things from it should be more aware of what we put in our mouths and of what goes in our trash. If that means reading more newspapers and giving a second glance to that lonely bell pepper in the supermarket, I think these are easy enough low-commitment goals we can all practice. Ones that will have a big impact for a more fruitful future. For Intermarché, they learned to “be bold, brave, unafraid to learn and test. This seemed impossible, but we made it.”

We’re glad they did.

Special Thanks to Claire Langet.