I was munching on rambutans yesterday and I wondered if there was anything newsworthy in the rambutan world. Turns out, much to my surprise, the answer was yes. Goldenberry Farms, a Miami-based fruit company, is trying to create a new, rambutan-loving children and youth market by gamifying the fruit they call "the exotic cousin of the lychee." In 2020 they launched "Ramboo," a red googly-eyed character that is supposed to be a cartoon rambutan, but that looks more like a pom-pom. Fresh Fruit Portal provides more info:
The "Ramboos" character-branded product line offers an introduction to the world of tropical fruit. Colorful labels feature seasonal scenes, complemented by in-store merchandising and interactive games, available free of charge.
As a follow-up, earlier this month the company launched a video game called "Ramboos Big Adventure." The Produce News explains:
Goldenberry Farms has introduced its Ramboos Big Adventure, a new game designed for children age 4 and above, where they are immersed in a fruit-finding adventure intended as a value-add offering to the Legend of Ramboo exotic fruit branded product line now available in stores. The game is available on the App Store and Google Play.
The character-branded product line offers a kid-friendly introduction to the world of tropical fruit. Goldenberry Farms created these fruit-loving Ramboos, which now headline a series of fruit-finding tropical adventures, featuring 12-ounce rambutan as the exotic "prize."
With the cartoon character and new video game (which the company describes this way: "Help Ramboo avoid the fruity obstacles on the way back to his forested homeland!"), Goldenberry Farms is seeking to capitalize on what sociologists and economists have known for decades: that children and youth have a big impact on what their parents buy (two great books on this topic that I use in my college courses focusing on consumption and consumer culture include Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, by Susan Linn, and Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture, by Juliet Schor; and here's a much newer study examining how kids influence family grocery shopping practices by Xuqi Chen, Bachir Kassas, and Zhifeng Gao).
The Fresh Fruit Portal reports that Gooseberry's marketing to children has worked:
Since launching, "Ramboos" has been available at a growing number of major retailers, and feedback shows that this "themed" product significantly outsells its generically labeled counterpart.
"We usually see a bump of about 18 to 22% in consumption when a store switches from a generic product to a Goldenberry branded one. Our labels allow the customer to see the product better, learn how to eat it and what health benefits they have," adds [Gooseberry Brand Director Christopher] Palumbo.
It makes me sad and annoyed that we have to slap googly eyes and cartoon labels onto fruits and veggies in order for people to eat them—and it still boggles my mind that fresh fruit and vegetables can be branded—but that's capitalism, I suppose. And I guess if all of this is introducing more people to delicious and healthy food, I can't be entirely mad about it. I'll still grumble about it, though, like the capitalist killjoy I strive to be. I hate to admit it, though–but Ramboo IS kinda cute. Hrmph.