California company delivers boxes of discounted “ugly” produce to your door

Imperfect Produce-Ugly Produce. Delivered.

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The “ugly” fruit and vegetable movement has been growing in momentum in the past few years, and for good reason. A large amount of food is wasted before it reaches grocery store shelves due to the food industry’s strict aesthetic standards for shape, colour and size of produce. In order to combat this, some grocery store chains are beginning to sell imperfect vegetables and fruits, often at a discounted price. However, there is one company taking things even further.

Based in the California Bay Area, Imperfect Produce delivers boxes of imperfect fruits and vegetables to consumers at 30-50% less cost than “perfect” fruits available at grocery stores. Shoppers can choose from a number of boxes such as all-vegetable, all-fruit or mixed, all of which are available in different sizes.

“In America, 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables grown don’t fit grocery stores’ strict cosmetic standards — the crooked carrot, the curvy cucumber, the undersized apple — usually causing them to go to waste” reads a statement on their website. The issue is also prevalent in Canada, where rejected fruits and vegetables make up to 18% of total food waste. Companies like Imperfect Produce are working to combat this by changing the way consumers think about vegetables and fruit. Along with other “ugly” produce movements, the company hopes to educate people on the benefits of choosing to eat imperfect produce, which has the same nutritional content and taste as its aesthetically-pleasing counterpart.

Christinne Muschi for National Post

Misshapen or discloured peppers such as these are rejected by buyers and often used for animal feed or tossed back into soil. (Image: Christinne Muschi for National Post via Financial Post)

As a home-grown company, Imperfect Produce only delivers to certain areas of California, but the business model would likely prove successful here in Canada, as more and more consumers are aware of the extent of waste in the food industry. Based on the success of initiatives like Loblaw’s Naturally Imperfect, it appears as though Canadians are ready to see the beauty in ugly produce.

You can read more about Imperfect Produce on their website.



This wonky Mr. Potato Head is helping to raise awareness about food waste

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Too many fruits and vegetables are thrown away because they do not meet strict aesthetic standards. Despite the success of grocery store campaigns such as Loblaw’s Naturally Imperfect and France’s Inglorious Fruit, there is still much work to do in order to rewire what consumers define as “beautiful produce”. To support the case for imperfect foods, Hasbro has made a wonky, asymmetrical, but naturally-accurate model of the Mr. Potato Head toy.

Hasbro produced the Mr.Potato Head in partnership with UK grocery chain ASDA to spread the word that even misshapen or “ugly” fruits and vegetables are still perfectly edible. However, if you’re looking to snag an original wonky Mr. Potato Head, the one and only available model has been auctioned off on ebay for no less than $950, with all proceeds going to the charity FareShare which provides affordable, healthy fruits and vegetable to families in the UK.

You can read more about the cause here.

Ubifood app may help cut retail food waste in Montreal

Many restaurants and cafes practice the “day-old” system of selling food the day after it was made for a discounted price, yet the leftovers do not always make it into the hands of consumers. Caroline Pellegrini, a Montrealer and innovative food waste warrior, realized the extent of this issue when visiting a friend’s sushi restaurant. She noticed that there were boxes upon boxes of 50% off sushi left over at the end of the day, which no one was buying.
This sparked the idea for Ubifood, an app that shows users which restaurants and cafes in their area have discounted food that is approaching its best before date or must be sold by the end of the day.

Ubifood app

If you see something that catches your eye as you scroll through the tantalizing pictures of cake slices, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and loaves of bread, you can pay for it instantly and it will be reserved until you pick it up. As of now, unless you live in Montreal (and own an apple device- they are currently working on an android-compatible app) don’t go reaching for your phone quite yet; Ubifood only serves the Montreal area but is planning to broaden the app’s scope.

Pellegrini and her team currently have 20 participating retailers and are aiming to reach 100 in the next few months. It seems like only a matter of time until it expands to cities across the country. The app aims to reduce food waste, though as Pellegirni says,”Everybody benefits. The consumers, retailers, and the planet – all at once,”.

Read more about the app on the Ubifood website here.

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Denmark opens “Surplus Food” Grocery Store

As we have been reporting in previous weeks, many countries in the European Union have been several steps to reduce food waste, primarily at the legislative level . France has opted for the “stick” approach, fining retailers for dumping instead of donating, while Italy has plans of a more “carrot” nature, with more incentives to retailers to donate rather than the fines.

Now Denmark is continuing to push boundaries by opening a new surplus food grocery store aimed at the general public. It’s called WeFood and it opened last month in Copenhagen. Food at the store is nearing or past its expiry date. The food is donated and the shop is run by volunteers. Profits from the food sold go to anti-hunger organizations all over the world.

You can read more about WeFood and what Denmark is planning for the future here.

From NPR: “A crowd waits on the sidewalk for the WeFood grocery store in Copenhagen to open. It’s not the first grocer in Europe to sell surplus food. But unlike so-called “social supermarkets” — stores that serve almost exclusively low-income people — WeFood’s offerings are very intentionally aimed at the general public. DanChurchAid”

“Stop Sprechi Alimentari”: Italy to pass food waste law

The Italian parliament will be considering a law to make it easier for grocery stores to donate food, rather than putting it in the trash. Read more here.

The bill will focus on incentives for retailers, unlike the similar law passed in France that uses heavy fines to ensure compliance.

The Italian law will be read in parliament next Monday (March 21).


Update: France Bans Supermarket Waste

In July, we wrote about French Councillor Arash Derambarsh’s efforts to lead the way in food waste reduction for the EU. Last week his efforts paid off, at least for the country of France. French grocery stores that are 400 square meters or larger are now required by law to donate all of their excess food to either food banks or charities, or run the risk of being considerably fined. Furthermore, supermarkets are now banned from tampering with food they put in bins: previously either bleached, locked up, or otherwise rendered inedible. Finally, the law has relaxed restrictions on donations that can come directly from factories, eliminating much of the red tape in the process.

Councillor Derambarsh hopes French President Hollande is willing to take the rest of the EU to task on the issue of food waste, using France as an example.

You can read more about this story here:

Food rescue retail

Former president of Trader Joe’s, Dough Rauch, has opened a groundbreaking new type of grocery store: a non-profit model that tackles food insecurity, reduces food waste, and promotes good nutrition.  The Daily Table store opened June 4, after managing to pass the hurdles of non-profit approval and convincing authorities that wasted food can be safe and nutritious food. The shop is located in the low income community of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and provides access to healthy food at very low prices.

produce at The Daily Table

This new initiative is a major departure from more traditional food charities. It is strongly committed to providing nutritious meals that can compete with fast food in its price and convenience. At the same time the retailer is committed to preventing food waste by collecting donated food and selling it fresh or transforming it into ready-to-eat meals.The shop is challenging cheap, unhealthy calories in a way that is financially and environmentally sustainable while ensuring the health and dignity of its patrons. There are many non-profits that serve rescued food, but the distinction here is that Daily Table allows customers a choice – they are not simply recipients. Being in a retail space enables Daily table to be grounded in the community, provide employment and training, as well as make money to cover costs. I’m excited to see how this project will fare as it employs it’s innovative approach to food waste, nutrition, and food insecurity.

Check out a National Geographic interview on Daily Table with founder Doug Rauch  here, or more coverage from NPR.