What happens to the produce that grew on an odd angle, on the ground, or bravely withstood storms? Nature may have given it a different look. On the other hand, maybe the produce was bruised during shipping. These fruits and vegetables are termed as “ugly” since they do not reach normal aesthetic standards.
So, how can growers and retailers capitalize on this “ugly” produce?
According to the USDA, U.S. produce is graded according to freshness, size, color, shape and free of defects. An article in Fresh Plaza notes, “Nearly 26 percent of all produce grown in the U.S. gets thrown away because supermarkets refuse to stock misshapen or dinged up fruit and vegetables that don’t meet stringent cosmetics.” Fruit and vegetables may be deemed ugly, but are edible.
“Ideally, every piece of produce is perfect enough to be brought to market, but that doesn’t always happen,” said Karl Smith, senior vice president of the Produce Marketing Association.
The rest goes to waste. Often large quantities are left to rot, used to feed animals, or end up in landfills because they do not meet USDA standards.
Retailers source fresh produce according to consumer demand. Some consumers were not interested in ugly produce. According to a recent Harris Poll, 81 percent of Americans confirmed that appearance is “at least somewhat important” to them when shopping for fresh produce. Forty-three percent said it was “extremely important.” Several reasons exist why shoppers may not purchase ugly fruit. Something is wrong with the produce. Children will not eat different shaped produce. Small produce makes shoppers feel they will have to buy more because of the size. Lastly, consumers are concerned ugly produce will taste different.
How can growers and retailers can capitalize on consumers’ interest in ugly produce?
Offer at a discount
Consumers are looking to put more color and flavor on their plates, but some find fruits and vegetables to be pricey. Shoppers buy ugly fruit for the discounts. The price can be anywhere from 20-30 percent off. A Global survey by Blue Yonder, revealed that 90 percent of grocery retailers felt their customers would buy imperfect fruit or vegetables at a discount.
Merchandise the “ugly” and educate consumers about food waste.
Food waste is a significant concern for consumers and the industry. Produce managers are adapting to the needs of the consumer by using new ways of positioning and educating consumers. One way to educate them is by using in-store displays and banners to highlight ugly produce. One such catchy display reads, “Imperfect produce is perfectly delicious and nutritious. Six billion pounds of fresh produce goes unused each year. Food rescues start with you!” said John Griesenbrock, Hy-Vee’s vice president of produce/health markets.
Robinson Fresh in Minneapolis markets “ugly” under the “Misfits” brand. Their slogan is: “Rise of the Rejects.”