Cultivating consumer cravings for carrots with cuteness and convenience
Compared to a potato or an eggplant, carrots are pretty accessible vegetables. You don’t necessarily need to do much more than clean the dirt off them before eating the root of the vitamin A-rich root. More adventurous diners can even eat the greens that we usually throw out, although considering most Americans’ aversion to carrot peels, most of us will probably stick to the orange bits. Our finicky nature almost did carrot industry in, but an experimental farmer found a way make them uniformly attractive and convenient which is why they’re on our menu today.
Picking more perfect produce
The trick to higher carrot sales was to find a way around the fact that, like all organisms, carrots were occasionally gnarled, twisted or just somehow too imperfect for shoppers to buy. Similar to our aversion to naturally browning apples, people seem to strongly favor carrots uniform, symmetrical carrots as seen in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Some of this bias makes sense, as we’d like to avoid food that may be discolored from rot or disease, but in many cases we’re more spoiled than our food is.
In 1986, Mike Yurosek tried stuffing some less-than-perfect carrots into a green-bean cutter, shaving off the unslightly variations in size and shape to offer perfect two-inch carrot nuggets. When he offered them to stores, demand was intense from the start, with sales ballooning to eventually surpass those of standard carrots. Carrot consumption in the United States basically doubled within a decade of baby carrots’ introduction, partly for their attractiveness and partly for their convenience. They were being sold in bags for snacking, moving past simply being salad or soup components and being eaten as a healthy alternative to chips or crackers.
Reusing carrot that would be refused
Beyond higher sales for farmers, baby carrots also yield some sustainability benefits. Composting peelings and greens is of course possible at home, but also not widely adopted. By pruning the undesirable bits off of carrots at the factory, the trimmings can be more easily consolidated and reused for juices, feeds or grated carrots for salads and mixes. Less ends up in the trash can, and a wider variety of carrots can actually make it into your mouth.
My first grader asked: Can you get baby purple or yellow carrots?
Unfortunately, you probably can’t find these at the grocery store, although you could make them yourself, since the only thing that makes carrots into babies is a good trim. Since heirloom varieties are often purchased for their unique appearance, people interested in them probably don’t care for them to be offered as convenient veggie-nuggets like the orange versions. The purple also stains your fingers, detracting from the ‘convenient snack’ concept. Finally, some purple carrots are still orange on the inside, totally ruining the fun after they’re chopped up.
My wife asked: What about stories of baby carrots being bleached?
After the carrots are peeled and cut, they’re given a quick bath in a mild chlorine solution to kill pathogens, and then rinsed. The amount of chlorine is comparable to what’s in your drinking water, and real bleach is never used. The white residue you’ve seen on carrots in your fridge is actually due to the veggies drying out and trying to form new layer of protection from further dehydration. Appropriately enough, it’s a cosmetic, rather than health, concern in the end.
Source: Baby carrots are not baby carrots by Roberto A. Ferdman, Wonkblog