Streams

My Growing Fruit Sticker Collection

Friday, July 29, 2011

What Else Can I Do With These? Fruit Stickers on My Notebook What Else Can I Do With These? Fruit Stickers on My Notebook (Amy Eddings)

There used to be a time when the only sticker found on a piece of fruit was the brand label for Chiquita bananas. My siblings and I used to stick them in the middle of our foreheads when we were kids.

Now, I could cover my entire face with the number of fruit and veggie stickers I've been encountering this summer.

They are ubiquitous.  And frustrating.  Standing at my counter, getting ready to peel a mango or slice into an avocado, I have to stop, peel the little sticker off the fruit...then off my finger...then find a place to ditch it. I have taken to sticking them into a little notebook I keep in the kitchen to write down my shopping lists.

These little stickers no longer just to trumpet a particular brand. They contain numbers, info about where the produce has come from, and, sometimes, bar codes.

What gives?  While I have noticed the stickers more this summer, due to my commitment to eat more fruits and veggies, I didn't give them much thought until prompted by my tennis doubles partner and illustrator, Richard Codor. (That's his work below; he got me exactly right, picking away furiously at mango, peach and avocado labels every day.)

"Amy, you gotta do a piece on those crazy fruit stickers!" he said one morning as we were walking off the courts at the Prospect Park Tennis Center. "Who gets the job of putting them on each and every lemon in the crate?"

Hmmmm.

Illustrator Rich Codor got me just right, picking furiously away at those annoying produce stickers. Illustration by Richard Codor.

 

According to the Produce Marketing Association, which oversees the little buggers, the stickers have been with us since 1990 when the international food supply chain voluntarily decided to create a uniform Price Look Up (PLU) code system that would work in New York City and Nottingham, from Bay Ridge to Beijing. PLUs help growers, producers, packers, and retailers keep track of inventory.  It's a four- or five-digit number that identifies the produce, its variety, and its size. 

So, the number 4105 is "Apples, Cox Orange Pippin." The funny little British Web site, FruitSticker.com, said 4105 is its "most popular PLU number," with more than 25,000 searches on its site.

Four-digit numbers are for conventionally-grown produce. Organic produce is designated by the addition of a 9 in front of the four-digit commodity/variety/size number. My morning mangoes have the number 94051 ("Mango, Red" in my FruitSticker.com search).

Genetically-modified produce gets an 8 before the four numbers.  I got all excited about this, until I thought, "Who the heck would readily put that kind of a sticker on their salmon-gene tomato?"

Meg Miller, spokeswoman for the Produce Marketing Association, confirmed my suspicions.

"Five-digit PLU codes are not mandatory," she said. "The only time a company would use a five-digit code is if they wanted to track a product and do a comparison on sales, like conventional vs. organic."

As for the image of some poor guy with a price gun, applying stickers on each apple coming into the back of a C-Town or Gristede's, Miller put that to rest. She said they are not applied by hand. They're put on by machines, "So no one's touching the product."

She said PLU's were not meant to be used as "consumer communication vehicles." After all, why should you know that "golden kiwis" are labeled 3279, and "regular kiwis" are labeled 4030? For you and me, they are solely to make sure, "You pay the right price for the produce you've chosen," wrote Miller. "The codes also speed up your time in the checkout line because it's faster than having to look them up."

Yeah, but they slow me down on the other end, when I'm trying to consume them.

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Comments [10]

Nick from Germany

Hi,

my name is Nick and I'm collecting fruit stickers for some years now. You can find my collection here: www.fruitsticker.de
I you are interested in trading stickers with me or if you just want to donate some stickers to my collection, please contact me. You can find my email address at my website.

May. 29 2013 10:17 AM
Joaquin from Spain

Hello,

I offer Spanish fruit stickers in swap for hotel key cards or champagne/sparkling wine caps

Please contact to: jobiolc@yahoo.es

Apr. 03 2013 06:26 AM
Ian Beckwith from australia

Hi
I have been collecting all fruit and vegetable plu sticker,tags etc since 1990 and have over 17000 to date, if anyone has any unwanted stickers I would like to add them to my collection. I also do a lot of trading with other collectors.You can view all my duplicates on www.flicker.com/photos/fstickers

Mar. 11 2013 03:40 AM
Lucie Phamová

My email address is: lucie.phamova@seznam.cz

Jan. 18 2013 04:23 AM
Lucie Phamová

Hello, I am beginning collector, so I wanted to ask if you could send me some labels into my starting collection? I will be very pleased. I might send some in return, that I have to exchange, but not so many. Just getting started. Thank you very much for your answer. Bye, Lucie.

Jan. 18 2013 04:20 AM
Anabela from portugal

I´m anabela.I´m portuguese.I also collect fruit stickers.If someone is interested in trading with me ,please contact me at:

Barreirense68@live.com.pt

Sep. 21 2012 02:15 PM
Ed Yanez from Quintero, CHILE

Hello Fellow Collectors
Do you want fruit stickers from Chile ?
Ed
www.collectibles.es.tl

Jul. 06 2012 04:02 PM
Carl from California

surprisingly, some of those fruit labels are really quite beautiful. To see my collection of over 1,000 watermelon labels go to watermelonlabels.com. If you have some watermelon from your locale, I would like to hear from you.

Nov. 26 2011 06:13 PM
Armand C from staten island NY

today is the first time i search the internet for fruit sticker related websites.
i own a small wire basket used to hold fruit, and it is decorated with over 150 different fruit stickers.
i enjoy having an international collection of stickers, local and organic pieces, and interesting characters on the sticker labels.
i present the sticker bowl 'art' to my friends with trivia questions, like: can you find the dinosaur label? or the white house sticker?

Aug. 28 2011 03:08 PM
Amy Reiley

Although I am often annoyed by the little stickers myself, I heard an artisan peach farmer speak on the topic a few years ago, (his stickers were, by the way, applied by hand). He pointed out that the stickers can serve as a beautiful marketing tool for small farmers like his. If you happen to buy his peach and find it memorable, now you can track down the farm and get more of the same peach, helping to preserve the tradition of small farms. So even icky little stickers can serve a beautiful purpose.

Aug. 01 2011 03:54 PM

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