Catalyst

Why it’s important to cue freshness

Alpana Parida | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on February 25, 2016

Quite a spectacle! The street market creates an impression of freshness in abundance.

How can you tell your customers that your products are not old or stale?



Walking along the pavement in the soon-to-be No 1 smart city in the country, Bhubaneswar, I came across two vegetable shops, adjacent to each other. One was the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation-run Udayan Fresh and the other was the makeshift stall of a local street vendor. First of all, the fundamental impermanence of a roadside stall signifies a daily setting up of shop, bringing with it a daily supply of fresh material. A permanent structure of a closed shop seems counter to the idea of freshness. To cue freshness, stability and permanence are counter-productive to the perception required.

Freshness is also signified by abundance. A harvest visibly lush and abundant is usually a signifier of “straight from the farm”. It has not been sorted, divided or stored and atrophied. Produce neatly kept on shelves, behind glass panels, fails to cue this fresh, juicy and succulent aspect of fruits and vegetables. It takes on values from similarly stacked personal care items such as soaps and toothpastes, or even grocery items such as rice and dals.

These are products with long shelf life and colour our perception of fruits and vegetables sitting in the same environment. This is why modern trade has found it hard to fight street vendors in this category.

There are smart design solutions that can overcome this problem – a display stand outside the store or an entrance with a retractable awning can look like an impermanent and daily setting up of this section. The use of wood, straw, jute or other natural materials can, again, reduce the permanence of plastic, concrete and glass. Handwritten prices or product descriptions cue a daily updating of inventory and can be very powerful in signifying freshness. Think of Parisienne boulangeries with ‘chalk on blackboard’ menus and how they signify freshness.

Design is not a random aesthetic. It is a conscious strategy to bring about desired outcomes.

Freshness can be designed!

Published on February 25, 2016
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