OPINION | Brown is green, bright is bad

What colour is environmental responsibility?

Well, if you were to judge by the products in the eco and organic section of the supermarket, it's definitely brown. Reminiscent of the paper bags of our childhood, plain beige has no competition as the colour du jour.

Oh, there may be muted patterns and type in other shades, and green can stake a claim as long as it's not too violent a shade, but brown is the overall vibe. Bright colours are so obviously synthetic - shoppers in this aisle would much rather their ink came in softer, more 'authentic' tones.

In reality, the organic-style chip packet is often no better than any other chip packet, and sometimes that goes for the contents, too.

So when you pick up a fattening snack in a plastic wrapper, as long as it's brown you can still get that special healthy sort of glow.

Of course, knowing this can't necessarily stop you doing it (I say, munching on my lentil crisps).

The psychology of packaging is an actual thing, and one that manufacturers exploit routinely.

In some ways we should thank them, since the process of choosing a product would be exponentially more complicated if everything came in the same wrapping.

Much like choosing a book by its cover (which of course we all do), we at least in part pick our products based on our emotional reaction to the box or bag they sit in.

It's a shortcut for our over-stimulated brains, so we can grab something off the shelf and have a rough idea of what we're getting, without needing to read the fine print. So the quality jams with more fruit come in prettily shaped jars with classic fonts on the labels. The thin, sugary jams come in bog-standard jars with plain labels or lurid photos of fruit on them. You don't even need to look at the price tag.

But what if someone puts cheap jam in the fancy jars and jacks up the price accordingly? It's not exactly false advertising - buyer beware - but it does make life confusing. I guess it's back to those nutrition panels after all.

Comments