THE CONSUMERIST MANIFESTO BLOG

Having The Last Laugh for Bad Products, Poor Services and Broken Promises

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September 27, 2010

Tags: agribusiness, seed engineering, Whole Foods, Turlock Farms

Turlock Fruit Says Avoid The Cranshaws

Not to worry: The Cranshaws are neither the Hatfields nor the McCoys. They are big, yellow-orange melons that were once reliably ripe and sweet. Now they deceptively look ripe and sweet. Nothing’s perfect, as they say inthe fresh food business.

Don Smith, an executive at Turlock Fruit Company in California, a major Cranshaw producer, gave me a straightforward explanation: Seed engineering. He says that Cranshaw “seeds are bred for long shelf life” at the expense of sweetness. Therefore I should stop buying them if I want good taste along with the good looks. The seeds grow into “hard and ripe” melons but are not nearly as sweet as Cranshaws once were. He suggests switching to Turlock Farms’s orange flesh honeydews.

Smith’s honesty contrasts with the agribusiness tradeoff of supermarket corporate satisfaction at the expense of consumer satisfaction. Whole Foods, for example, might reject—according to Mr. Smith—an entire shipment of Cranshaws if too many arrive ripe and prone to damage. Whole Foods has a talent for attractive displays of fruit and vegetables. As for taste, consumers may find an expensive inconsistency. Like all supermarket chains, WF is a food seller—not a food producer—that takes no responsibility for diminished quality due to seed engineering. But WF cheerfully refunds my returns without dispute.

Turlock Fruit's answer was candid—but not as satisfying as another producer who, when I emailed him a complaint about an unripe papaya, overnighted a ripe one.