A couple of years ago I came upon a delightful Instagram account that posted pictures of fruit stickers. This was a bit shocking because noticing is what I do, and my impression was that fruit stickers were rubbish and not worth looking at.
So I got a little notebook, that resides in the kitchen “junk” drawer, and started peeling and sticking every new sticker that came into the house. I’ve been doing this for several years and now is a good time for a little progress report on the collection.
My first observation is that quantity has its own quality. The individual stickers I see are not particularly interesting, but with my collection I can start to discern some themes. For example, I like the typography of this group.
There is a category with images of anthropomorphic fruits. Avocados and mangos reveal their Mexican origins with sombreros and mustaches. And then there is Mr. Melon Man giving us the thumbs up.
Tiny Miss Chiquita Banana, with a basket of fruit on her head, was once a singing and dancing spokesperson for the problematic banana trade. Remember the time when a banana republic was a country controlled by the United Fruit Company, not a store where you bought preppy chinos.
Stickers often provide the country of origin and some consumer hints like the “ripe when soft” seen on this avocado sticker from Mexico. But the major function of the sticker these days is to provide the PLU, the price look-up code, for a cashier at checkout. The number 4046 means this sticker was on a small Hass variety avocado.
4050 was a large cantaloupe.
4053 was a large lemon from Morocco. If the PLU starts with a 9 the produce is organic.
The PLUs are assigned by an international organization, so 4961 means a large yellow mango, no matter where it comes from or who grew it.
As more of us are forced to use self-serve checkouts we may all learn some PLUs, and occasionally we will be rewarded by a particularly attractive sticker.
- Of course there are Nova Scotian stickers; here is one from Truro for PLU 4664, tomatoes, red, on the vine.
- For many of us, “Stickers on Fruit” was a song, written and performed by Nancy White. Nancy wrote topical and satirical songs for the CBC Radio public affairs program, Sunday Morning. I remember when she first sang “Stickers on Fruit”, in the early 1990s I guess. Then stickers were new, strange, and made no sense. Surely they are a passing fad we thought. Here is a version of the song.
- For adventures in weirdness, explore some of the Chiquita Banana advertisements: here, for example, and here.