Instagram

Instagram

Supermarkets consider ending discount for ugly produce

Some supermarkets end their test on discounting ugly produce in stores

Is the “ugly produce”’ trend already reaching the end of its shelf life in supermarkets?

Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it’s not quite the right size, shape or colour. But the two chains and others quietly ended their tests, suggesting dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing in stores where better looking fruits and vegetables are on display.

“Customers didn’t accept it as much as we had hoped,” said Mona Golub of Price Chopper, a grocery chain in the Northeast that also discontinued its offering of ugly produce.

Still, some stores and home delivery startups haven’t given up on the idea of selling less-than-perfect produce to reduce food waste and say they’re doing well.

At a Hy-Vee store in Iowa, a recent display of “Misfits” produce included packs of apples, lemons and oranges that were either too big or small, or otherwise substandard in appearance. A sign explained that “6 million pounds of fresh produce goes unused each year,” though the packages didn’t specify why the produce might have otherwise been thrown away.

“I like the cost savings and it is good to help and not throw so much away,” said shopper Brian Tice, who bought a pack of small oranges.

READ MORE: Millennial men least likely to have a family doctor: Statistics Canada

Another shopper, Jamie Shae, said she didn’t realize there was anything special about the fruit

“I happened to see the bags of lemons,” said Shae, who was in a rush and grabbed two bags.

Shopper Joan Hitzel, who was browsing other produce nearby, said she thought the Misfits were a good idea given the tons of food that gets thrown away, but didn’t plan to buy any that day.

The supplier of the Misfits produce to supermarkets, Robinson Fresh, said about 300 grocery locations still sell the fruits and vegetables, including the Hy-Vee stores. Kroger also said it still plans to introduce its “Pickuliar Picks” this spring.

But among other regional chains that have stopped carrying ugly produce are Meijer in the Midwest, Hannaford based in Maine and Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, which cited “inconsistent customer interest” for pulling the plug on its “Produce with Personality.”

Walmart no longer offers the damaged “I’m Perfect” apples it introduced in Florida in 2016.

The efforts channeled growing interest in reducing food waste. Government agencies say the best way to reduce waste is to stop producing too much food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 31 per cent of the 430 billion pounds of the nation’s food supply goes uneaten. That does not include the fruits and vegetables that get tossed at the farm level, before foods reach stores.

For fruits and vegetables that don’t meet supermarket standards, some may get processed for products like juices and some go to food banks. Startups delivering ugly produce say there’s so much they’re not taking from food banks.

View this post on Instagram

A bouquet of compost 💐

A post shared by Community Composting (@communitycomposting) on

Shopper preferences may not be the only challenge for ugly produce in supermarkets.

“Retailers really prize their produce sections,” said Imperfect Produce CEO Ben Simon, whose company had partnered with Whole Foods on a test at the chain. Grocers might worry that cheaper produce will cannibalize sales of regular produce, or give off a bad image, he said.

Delivery startups say they’re seeing interest in their services. But they are up against shoppers who inspect the fruits and vegetables they buy and those who worry about all the packaging.

READ MORE: Massive elk herd runs across Washington State highway

“I’ve been food shopping online, and I started thinking about all the boxes, all that cardboard,” said Nyasha Wilson, a New York City resident who carefully selects apples for ripeness at a farmer’s market.

The companies say they might at least change shoppers’ views on discarded produce. Evan Lutz, CEO of the startup Hungry Harvest, said most of it is just too small or slightly discolored.

“The vast majority that would go to waste isn’t really that ugly,” he said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A heavy police presence was on scene on Dec. 28, 2017 following the shooting death on Bates Road in Abbotsford of Alexander Blanarou, 24, of Surrey. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Three men charged with Abbotsford shooting death of Surrey man

Alexander Blanarou, 24, was killed in a rural area on Dec. 28, 2017

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Hit-and-run driver knocks pedestrian into ditch in Abbotsford

Woman was walking in area of Harris Road and Riverside Street on Monday

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Abbotsford residents gather in the Clearbrook area on Monday to demonstrate against what they say is unfairt treatment by the Indian government to farmers in the Punjab region of that country. (Maan Sidhu photo)
Abbotsford residents gather to protest unfair treatment of India farmers

Locals believe new bills will devastate small farms, demand farmers be allowed to protest peacefully

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

A family emerged with a purchase at the Tannenbaum Tree Farm at 5398 252 St in Aldergrove on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Christmas tree season is off to an early start

People are ‘bored’ with staying home due to COVID-19 and want to decorate early, farm owner believes

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A convoy of seven pickup trucks, six of which were hauling boats, makes its way around the Chilliwack Law Courts on Dec. 1, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
First court date for Fraser River anglers ticketed during demonstration fishery

Convoy of trucks circled the courthouse in downtown Chilliwack Tuesday honking their support

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

Most Read