What Do Mucous Secretions and Fruit Have in Common? The Watermelon Kleenex Box


In the current era, the persuasive powers of food are so immense that they can be used to effectively sell other products, even when no food is present.

This odd thought struck me as I walked into my local Duane Reade and encountered a lavish display of Kleenex boxes shaped and realistically printed to resemble wedges of fruit. This can’t be a very effective way of boxing Kleenex, I thought. You’d have to fold each successive tissue smaller than the last to get maximum use of the container.

Let’s face it: Kleenex is usually associated with disease. You buy a box of Kleenex when you have a runny nose, instead of using a hanky, which would be more environmentally correct. You want a Kleenex to quickly get the snot as far away from you as possible.

So to counter this downer idea about Kleenex, they’ve borrowed a set of icons that are the opposite of diseased nasal secretions: colorful, tasty, and healthy pieces of fruit. Fruit merchandisers have spent decades flogging the healthful properties of fruit, so that now when we get a cold, we automatically reach for the orange juice — even though it’s really just sugar and water.

The series of three boxes (watermelon, lime, and orange — there had to be orange, right?) are part of a campaign on the part of Kleenex to offer more “designer friendly” boxes that you might want to display in your home on their own. What could be more attractive than a display of fresh fruit, or at least boxes that photo-realistically resemble fresh fruit? Scatter them around the house and you can make your mouth water — right before you sneeze.

The boxes are the work of illustrator Hiroko Sanders, who exclusively draws fruit, mainly with commercial uses in mind. He’s really something of a food porn artist; this Kleenex campaign was originally created in 2009 for Target, but now has much wider distribution.

And if you think I’m crazy making a big deal about fruit being used to sell something unrelated, consider the opposite relationship: Would you put a picture of Kleenex on a box filled with oranges?