Broccoli is penance. People buy it because they assume that if it’s green and doesn’t taste good, it must be good for you.
At Ruby Tuesday, they put broccoli on the plate with chicken wings, steaks, and burgers for its “halo effect”—seeing it on the plate makes diners feel like they’re being healthy, even if they don’t touch it. It’s the same psychology that convinced fast food restaurants to put salads on their menu. Moms use salads as a rationale when their kids want fast food: “Timmy really wants a kid’s meal but I don’t want to go because I’ll feel bad about myself for eating a burger. Oh, wait, they have salads. We can go and both get something that we want.” And then the Mom goes to the restaurant, smells the french fries, and buys the burger value meal (with a Diet Coke).
At Whole Foods, broccoli is $2.99/pound. The two pound stalk (pictured above) with three small florets costs approximately $6 for two servings. Shoppers don’t buy broccoli because they’re craving it, they buy it because they’re feeling bad about themselves or want to “balance” the frozen pizzas in their shopping cart. And for many people, it probably sits in the fridge until it goes bad and then gets thrown out. Two weeks later, they purchase another head of it. Broccoli is a good intentions product, the lapsed gym membership of the grocery store.
Business opportunities (cynical): put broccoli in a grab-and-go case near the checkout lanes. People will see the broccoli, look at their carts and realize they bought a bunch of “junk,” and grab broccoli for balance.
Business opportunities (optimistic): label other vegetables with quick cooking instructions. “Swiss Chard: chop, saute garlic in hot olive oil, add chard and cook 3 minutes. Add 1/4 c water or stock, cover and cook for another 3 minutes. Serve.” “Kale: Heat oven to 375, remove stems, toss with olive oil and salt, roast for 5 minutes, flip, remove when crispy, around 7 more minutes. Serve.”
Location: broccoli photo from Whole Foods, Tribeca, NYC. Ruby Tuesday photo from the New York Times.