M&S specialises in servicing the time-poor cash-rich (more money than sense) market, but even judged by the chain’s own luxuriously indolent standards, its new plastic pack of pre-cut avocado takes the breath away.
First, there’s the exclusivity of this Marie-Antoinette product, which exposes the ugly faultline of class that runs through our society. While over a million Britons queue for food banks, many of them low-paid supermarket workers, effete, affluent classes are too posh to peel avocados. A grotesque situation that lends itself to a Banksy mural.
Assuming it’s not citizens on income support who are driving sales, that forces us to face up to the utter incompetence of the better-off people who actually buy this ludicrous product. We’re pandering here to precious souls who won’t handle food because it spoils their manicures, people who live in yuppie condominiums equipped with dream kitchens that they never use. People who want to ‘eat clean’ without getting their hands dirty.
Next we come to the baleful lack of environmental awareness shown by these consumers. Did they pick up nothing from their geography lessons on climate change? Are they utterly oblivious to the fact that unnecessary packaging is mounting up in landfill sites, emitting carbon and poisoning the soil? Nature provided us with the perfect packaging for any fruit: skin. What next, pre-peeled bananas for those delicate souls who find the smell of the skin off-putting?
Perhaps the only way to get through to those cheerfully devouring the pre-cut avocado is a self-interested health angle, as follows. The default setting for those who care about their health is to eat as little packaged food as possible. This way they can limit their exposure to the thousands of under-regulated food contact chemicals that packaging contains. Many of them are hormone disrupters and migrate into food.
Packaging industry representatives rush to reassure us that their products give us nothing to fear. And packaging is here to stay. We’re not going to transport olive oil in clay amphorae. But for me the default rule is simple: if you don’t strictly need to buy packaged food, don’t, and the avocado is a prime example.
Joanna Blythman is a journalist and author of Swallow This