Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder.
But for lemons with noses, carrots with three legs and other naturally misshapen fruit and veggies, shouldn’t beauty be judged by taste, not looks? Some grocers say yes.
Rather than hide ugly produce, they’re promoting it to consumers as a way to combat food waste.
Take Intermarché, France’s third-largest supermarket. A few months ago, it launched “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables,” a campaign that uses YouTube videos and posters to remind customers that ugly produce is delicious.
One poster features a mutant apple and the tagline “A grotesque apple a day keeps the doctor away as well.” Intermarché devotes space in its stores to ugly produce, which is marked down 30%.
Its campaign follows the lead of other major grocers across the European Union, which has declared 2014 “The European Year Against Food Waste.” In Great Britain, the environmental charity Soil Association estimates as much as 40% of produce is rejected because it’s misshapen.
Some U.K. grocers are working to reduce that number. Sainsbury’s, for example, employs three ranges–Basics, By Sainsbury’s and Taste the Difference–to give customers a choice of buying visually varying grades of produce.
“We sell ‘ugly’ fruit and veg in our Basics range because it tastes good, is great value, minimizes waste and sup- ports British farming,” says Sainsbury’s spokesperson Josephine Simmons. Sainsbury’s has also bought blemished and misshapen produce to put in its pre- pared salads, ready meals and bakery fillings.
Similar sentiments are pushing grocers in the same direction on this side of the Atlantic, albeit south of the border.
One is Andronico’s Community Markets, which operates five stores in the San Francisco area. Two years ago, it signed a deal with wholesaler FoodStar to intercept less-than-perfect pro- duce headed for either food processors or landfill and sells it in clear plastic bags at prices discounted up to 90%.
“It wasn’t very successful,” admits Andronico’s marketing manager, Bridget Kwok. “People seemed to have an aversion to buying bruised food in a bag.”
But a second program, in which Andronico buys misshapen produce from FoodStar’s local producers and sells it for half price or less in open bins that customers can pick through, has proven more popular.
“People enjoy the savings and many say it tastes better than sprayed and waxed up pro- duce,” Kwok says.
At the right price, even ugly fruit looks beautiful.