Opinionista Tiara Walters 29 November 2019

Live your best life this Black Friday with Woolies kiwifruit ‘spifes’ and other totally useless stuff

Tucked between the rough-skinned oblong bulges, each enfolding a mouthful of nutrient-dense kiwi pulp, there it was: a mutant plastic implement, barely 15cm long, shimmering like the golden setting sun over the Amalfi coast…

If ever there was any doubt about how far “sustainability champ” Woolworths still had to go to put its money where its greenwashing mouth is, its kiwifruit knifespoon-things have surely helped put paid to that.

Of course, this Black Friday each South African has the opportunity to become American for a day, trawling the web or trampling other members of our own species for the kind of bargain that would make Uncle Sam’s spawn of shoppers greener than green. Greener than a greenback, the hills of Ixopo, a borehole-sprinkled golf course during the Western Cape’s one-in-a-650-year drought… or a kiwifruit.

Okay, so it probably isn’t so bad if you get your Black Friday fix online. You’re not offloading the equivalent of an annual holiday’s carbon budget on a cross-country trip to camp outside the Crazy Store (“Hey, you never know what you might find!”). Let’s just pretend, for a dizzy-blessed second, no carbon-hungry data centres, bubble-wrapped packages, planes, trains and automobiles are needed to deliver any bonanza buys to your door. It all just arrives at a magic-button click. After all, are you banging any of this onto your credit card?

No. You’ve saved all year to cash in on discount school clothes, heirloom seeds for an urban food garden to feed your homeless neighbours and a brand-new-new tablet that’ll never become e-waste. Your sustainability scorecard is safe. For now.

In its own attempt to stay on the right side of the avarice tracks, Woolies’ retail website advertises on its Black Friday landing page a campaign called “Give Back 4X”.

To make customers’ Black Friday purchases even more meaningful this year,” the retailer said in a press statement, it would enable store-card purchases between 28 November-1 December to “QUADRUPLE the donation being made to alleviating hunger! The entire initiative will contribute to Woolworths’ broader Give Back campaign, with the aim of raising R4.5-million towards the fight against hunger.”

One must acknowledge that striving for sustainability can be exhausting and even feel unattainable in a society where we’re all, to a greater or lesser degree, part of the problem — and where profound transformation is urgent.

It’s also fair to say that Woolies has probably made bigger strides towards better environmental citizenry than many South African retailers.

Even so, if your overpackaged fresh produce consistently falls short of the sustainability credentials you trade on, it’s time to grow a pair. If you’re consistently ignoring your customers’ pleas to eliminate fresh-produce plastics, it’s time to pivot 180 degrees.

It’s time to show those kvetching loons just how much fun overconsumption can be with Zespri® SunGold’s kiwifruit knifespoon-things.

Yup, it is a thing (apparently).

Wondering just what a Zespri® SunGold kiwifruit knifespoon-thing is?

So did I when it seemed it was no longer possible to buy loose kiwifruit at my local Woolies store, and instore staff couldn’t answer my questions about where the loose variety had gone. Nope. Woolies kiwifruit now appeared to come in energy-intensive, self-seal plastic packaging with room for six juicy kiwifruit a pop — and, if you were lucky enough to find Zespri® SunGold’s golden cultivar, a bonus without equal awaited you.

Tucked between the rough-skinned oblong bulges, each enfolding a mouthful of nutrient-dense kiwi pulp, there it was: a mutant plastic implement, barely 15cm long, shimmering like the golden setting sun over the Amalfi coast. Blink and you’ll have missed it. It was only when you looked closely, or clicked open the plastic lid, that you realised your life was about to change.

You know. Clever. Like a Lucky Packet. And the chef d’oeuvre?

The kiwifruit “spife” — a portmanteau for “spoon” and “knife”. Comprised simultaneously of a plastic blade at one end and a spoonhead at the other, it came courtesy of Zespri® SunGold, a New Zealand marketer of kiwifruit. And, if you’re anything like YouTube spife coach “Dad Camp”, you’ve been peeling your kiwifruit ‘wrong’ your whole life.

The kiwifruit ‘spife’ — a portmanteau for ‘spoon’ and ‘knife’.

I can’t profess to have any answers to the world’s problems.

But I did think I knew how to peel a mean kiwifruit (my friend Daniel says I’m the only person he’s ever witnessed eating kiwi in a cinema). First, it works to top and tail the sides with just about any knife, then you wiggle a standard-issue tablespoon beneath the skin (hollow side towards the flesh) … aaand … swivel. It takes practice, but — trust me — once you nail it, the result is a Vitamin-C packed jewel of tangy flesh, smoother than a baby’s bottom. Every time.

When I tried replicating this act with a spife, the result was culinary carnage. Kiwi blood splattered all over the sink. Chunky bits of kiwi guts held fast to the skin, forcing me to rescue the remaining lumps with a type of interpretive spife-scrape manoeuvre, like I was dragging Private Kiwi through the trenches of fruitfare.

Basically, it spoiled my muesli.

The omnipotent eye of Dad Camp must have been watching — before I knew it, he spake unto me from the frame of a YouTube clip. He spake with such Americanised intensity and hypnotism, he could have been HAL 9000, the Space Odyssey AI gripped with power-mad ambitions of hijacking space.

This is how you do the kiwi,” Dad Camp shouts, and grabs his spife.

Cut it in half!” he orders. Flipping the inside halves of the golden variety towards the camera, he elongates his words as if leading a class of toddlerobics.

Loook! Spooon it out!” With a clumsy flourish, he digs the golden innards out of a “bowl” of kiwi peel. Then, the punchline.

It’s. Its. Own. Freaking. Booowl. Life is so much better … when you eat kiwi [another extremely dramatic pause] out of its own bowl.”

One thread commenter was so visibly moved, she extended her gratitude in caps. “MY BOX OF KIWIS CAME WITH THAT SPOON & I ALMOST CRIED,” said Victoria Rose. “My life changed after this day.”

The Down Under crowd wasn’t touched. “Why are you wasting the skin? As an Australian, I’m telling you YOU are eating it wrong,” said Oki Dingo. “The skin is the healthiest part. I’ve never even heard of someone trying to peel the skin off.”

Baffled “Flame Palmer” offered: “I don’t know how to explain it, it just seems weird. I guess it’s like, I eat beef but I wouldn’t eat the skin of a cow?” Flame Palmer, however, found itself outnumbered among the peanut gallery of kiwi-peel protesters.

Adding her voice to Oki Dingo’s, one Mary Oosterheert explained: “The skin is 100% edible, and packed with flavour, nutrition and fibre. The only time I peel is when I need a pretty fruit salad for guests.”

There you have it. We’ve all been doing it wrong. Eat your peel, even after you’ve made a pretty fruit salad for guests.

Spurred on by the desecration of one of the world’s favourite berries, I took the fight straight to the doorstep of the spife and soul of the party — Woolies. When asked this week how it had intended a single-useless plastic utensil like the spife to reflect its Good Business Journey, or how this might add value to lives of diehard kiwifruit consumers everywhere, Woolies responded with an explanation on how to use a spife. It added that “we do still offer a loose kiwi option” and that the “spife was a promotional item, which has now ended” (although, according to my investigations, those little nuggets were still on some shelves on the eve of Black Friday).

During 2019”, a spokesperson explained by email, Woolies “notched up many other packaging” and “single-use plastic achievements”.

Even so. Inside sources tell me that Woolies’ fresh-produce section continues to creak under the weight of unnecessary packaging, much of which still isn’t recyclable. Responding to questions on how its overpackaged fresh produce supported its ongoing campaign as a champion of sustainability, Woolworths gave no indication that it intended to eliminate plastic packaging in its fruit and vegetable sections.

Woolworths recently started offering tomatoes and avos in paper boxes. Did this mean it was time to start clearing more land for industrial forestation?

Our new tomato packaging [has] been successfully trialled and we have migrated away from the previous plastic punnets into board, which is made from 65% recycled paper,” it explained. “This is a specialised usage that creates a demand for pulp and recycled content so reduces the need to clear land for new forests. The plastic lid has also been changed to clarified polypropylene which is widely recycled so our tomato packaging is now also entirely recyclable.”

Note the subtext — reducing, rather than eliminating, the need to clear land for fresh-produce packets.

This leaves our adjudication panel of one honour-bound to reserve a special place for Woolies fresh-produce section in the entirely arbitrary 2019 Useless Stuff Awards (USAs). Inspired by that All-American consumerist tradition, Black Friday, the title of this inaugural awards programme intends no puns.

Other contenders for top spot in the inaugural USAs are Bluetooth speakers and their smartphone cousins. In the panel’s subjective view, they are the mullets of the outdoor world and, in most cases, these electronic mullets eventually die as e-waste. As an Our Burning Planet colleague likes to say to the purveyors of such sonic assailants (and their Boston terriers, because the pairing often seems inseparable), “some of us like to get away from the noise”.

Hot on the heels of spifes, electronic mullets and hipster lapdogs, are most dispensaries, pharmacies and chemists. It’s a free country and therefore one must applaud the beautiful act of tight binding. But it’s hard to grasp why one must be frogmarched from dispensary counter to till with packaging within packaging, secured in wire mesh with a variety of military-grade locks, fasteners, stickers, cable-ties and shibari bondage ropes. As an adult who dresses and feeds myself fairly well most days, I fail to see how these wasteful fasteners will stop me from emptying my medication between the toiletry and appliance aisles if I felt sufficiently compelled to do so.

My inside sources also tell me that waste-fuelled customer vloermoers at dispensary counters habitually fall on deaf ears, even though it’s easy enough to become a good environmental retailer by deleting surplus packaging.

Tempting though it is to nudge Boston terriers, e-mullets and pharmacists to the top of the steaming USAs pile (and not necessarily in that order), nothing matches single-use plastic utensils for their superannuated uselessness.

That’s why the panel must recognise Zespri® SunGold’s kiwifruit spife as the undisputed winner of the 2019 USAs. Woolies’ fresh-produce section comes in for a close-second drubbing. All other useless stuff celebrated in this article cable-ties in third place.

With recognition must come a prize.

Seeing today is also Give Back Friday, I assume this means being able to return to the retailer all fresh-produce and spife waste I’ve gathered over the past months with a pointed instruction:

Here’s to your ‘zero-packaging waste-to-landfill’ vision, Woolworths.

And, while you’re at it, (single-use) fork you, too.” DM

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