Product Design

Are Pre-Peeled Avocados Really So Pointless?

January 18, 2017

On Monday, Gizmodo published a short piece on California-based avocado grower Calavo’s pre-peeled, pre-halved, plastic-sealed avocados. The piece’s headline calls these products “the worst example of wasteful packaging yet.” What follows is a diatribe against a product that seems utterly pointless to writer Andrew Liszewski, who believes that this must be reserved only for the world’s most slothful denizens incapable of cutting open an avocado on their own. In catering to this demographic of sluggards, Liszewski claims, what's resulted is a profound waste of cardboard, plastic, and real estate in a grocery store aisle.

Though this particular blog post was prompted by Twitter user junkfoodguy’s tweet that same day, Calavo’s product—and the sneering, mockery-tinged reaction it invited—isn’t new. In fact, it’s been nearly a year since photos of this very product in Canadian grocery stores surfaced on social, provoking similar condemnation.

There are some justifications for this product's existence. For one, it’s difficult to tell when avocados are ripe or rotten from the outside, making the very act of purchasing whole avocados a gamble that may not be worth the heavy asking price. If this isn't reason enough to legitimize wrapping these halved avocados in packaging, consider that there’s something larger at play here, too. This Gizmodo post, and the tenor of conversation that it encourages, is blighted by a rather unfortunate ignorance of the boons this product could have for people with disabilities.

It recalls last year’s rancor surrounding Whole Foods’ pre-peeled oranges, considered, at first, an abomination of similar scope. Why waste plastic? Are "we" really this lazy? Well, it bears asking who the hell we is. Oftentimes, the imagined reader in these conversations doesn’t include those who may have conditions that’d render them incapable of actually peeling open an orange or slicing open an avocado, tedious acts that most able-bodied people take for granted.

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It's terribly easy to forget the people who have conditions that may radically shift their grocery-shopping habits, forcing them to resort to the frozen food aisle or canned fruits in syrup for produce. It's also irresponsible to forget these people. What blunted the outrage in the case of the Whole Foods pre-peeled orange, in spite of the company's own decision to pull the product from its shelves after the reaction to it online, was the work of disability rights activists who spoke out in favor of the product.

As for Calavo's pre-peeled avocado, I’m all for an alternative that uses less cardboard or plastic. How much waste this product contributes to the world is a valid concern. But a viable solution shouldn’t come at the expense of serving the disabled people who may need a product like this, especially when they're among our most disenfranchised populations.

Creating a product that's both environmentally sound and accessible to disabled folks isn't impossible; these two objectives aren't mutually exclusive. This is something disability rights activists and writers have said for years. Apparently, it still needs to be said.

What's your take on the pre-peeled, pre-halved avocado? Let us know in the comments.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Oscar C. January 19, 2017
Not to mention that a lot of recipes only call for half an avocado, leaving the other half to be either eaten while cooking or haphazardly wrapped in saran and left in the fridge until it turns brown. I would by a shrink-wrapped avocado if it meant reducing food waste, no problem.
Kitspy January 18, 2017
From what I've read online, there's debate about how helpful this particular instance of packaging is. But I think the important point this article makes is to encourage people to think from a perspective outside of their own.
Kenzi W. January 18, 2017
Thanks, Kitspy. You get where we're trying to go here.
maryaskew January 18, 2017
Exactly how accessible do you fantasize that packaging would be to anyone with weak hands?
Smaug January 18, 2017
Good point- I know several people with severe hand problems- I have some myself- and I think most of them would have an easier time cutting an avocado in half than undoing a modern shrink wrap job. Also easier to handle an avocado half with the skin than without.
Smaug January 18, 2017
I'd also be a little leery of a food that is generally eaten raw being exposed in a factory setting- there is, of course, a great deal of this done now, and while the percentage is low, there are severe problems and large recalls on a pretty regular basis. Anything for convenience, but this doesn't really seem awfully convenient.
Linda February 7, 2017
This is a ridiculous argument for extreme waste, pretending to be in defense of those with disabilities. I require a pair of scissors to open many plastic wrapped products and I have no difficulties using my hands. I can only imagine how tough it could be on a person who struggles with fine motor skill or mobility issues. Certainly the fresh fruit is less challenging.