Identifying demand for ugly produce not accepted by retailers

An article in the Atlantic titled “The Murky Ethics of the Ugly-produce business” (January 25, 2019) describes platforms such as Misfits Market and Imperfect Produce that delivers to customers who both are ready to accept the misshapen fruit, care about reducing food waste and get the benefit of up to 40% lower cost, and get home delivery. But to ensure customer orders are filled, platforms sometimes also use distributors as a source. Given the impact of such platforms on reducing food waste, should they be awarded carbon credits ? If ugly produce were not sold to customers, would they be wasted or used for products such as sauces ? Should retailers accept the produce despite its shape and thus avoid the need for such secondary platforms ?

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7 Responses to Identifying demand for ugly produce not accepted by retailers

  1. Mark Stickford says:

    It’s difficult to make a clear cut decision on whether supermarkets should take in ugly produce so that these markets aren’t needed, as it is a case-by-case basis. However, I believe that as it stands now there is open market space for these services, which is why they have been created. If these ugly or misshapen fruits and veggies were planned to be be used for sauces, then it is likely that they would’ve already made their way into those sauces. As I understand, there is a process that specifically chooses which products will be going towards sauces before they are offered to a supermarket. If there is a way to send unsold, overripe, or ugly produce back to a distributor for sauce use then that would take a large amount of waste out of the marketplace, which would always be positive.

  2. David Ng says:

    Though the article did not mention the nutrition values for ugly produce, I believe their nutrition values are the same as the sophisticated ones. However, it’s difficult for retailers to accept these ugly produces because most customers prefer the perfect ones. Therefore, companies such as Misfits Market and Imperfect Produce create a platform to deliver those products to a lower socio-economic area. To reduce waste, I believe that ugly produce can make its way to use for products such as sauces. In addition, I think those companies should be awarded carbon credits if there are guidelines on how much of those ugly produces are sold to customers.

  3. Sara Yung says:

    Platforms like Misfits Markets and Imperfect Produce serve as great mediums for consumers to get groceries that would typically be thrown away in a grocery store. The business plan of these platforms caters to those that care about reducing food waste while also get less expensive groceries with delivery. I think these platforms should be awarded carbon credits for their efforts. Food waste is a massive issue in the United States and other countries, that has caused issues with the overall health of the earth. I think “ugly produce” should be used for products such as sauces because the produce itself might have a minor visual imperfection, but the overall taste, nutritional value, and use of the produce is the same. I think it is okay if retailers choose not to accept these “ugly produce” items because they must maintain certain image and quality standards with their branding. I think it also allows more platforms to be successful in the food industry without necessarily having a storefront.

  4. Emma Wellington says:

    As mentioned in the article, platforms that specialize in selling “ugly” produce to consumers do help reduce food waste and provide access to fresh produce in food deserts. I think it would be difficult to award these platforms carbon credits if there is not a way to reasonably estimate the impact on food waste their service provides. If there is a manner to quantify the reduction in carbon and food waste that is attributed to their platform, then awarding carbon credits could be beneficial to providing financial incentives for these companies to continue expanding business.
    If the ugly produce was not sold to customers, it is likely that the majority would be wasted, although some could be used for other products such as sauces. The article mentioned that there is a point where it makes financial sense for farmers not to harvest the produce at all. In these scenarios, it would be wasted. However, if the produce is harvested, then it is likely it could be sold to distributors or restaurants to use in producing other foods or sold through platforms for ugly produce.
    I think there are certain retailers who could accept the produce despite its shape, but there is an opportunity for these platforms to exist. For example, retailers like Trader Joe’s whose average consumer is more environmentally aware could benefit by offering a separate, slightly discounted produce area with the ugly produce. However, I think there is an opportunity for this produce to still be leveraged through the platforms to provide access to people in food deserts. Additionally, consumer preferences have shifted to online shopping, especially in the food space due to COVID, so having this platform may provide additional convenience to consumers.

  5. Amanda Tronchin says:

    While I believe these platforms are intended to prevent food waste, I do not think that Misfits Market and Imperfect Produce accomplishes that goal. The deformed produce theoretically could be sold to companies that use those vegetables and fruits in their products. As mentioned in the article, some of this activity is happening today. Yet, it may be more advantageous to craft agreements with farmers to sell directly up until a certain amount. There needs to be a clause or an option stating if there are no deformed or misshaped fruits and vegetables to be sold, the farmer will incur a small fine. This fine would need to be smaller than the price sold to grocery stores to discourage farmers from selling good fruits and vegetables to companies that will use them in their products. If so, it could cause a shortage.

    I believe retailers should experiment with a few stores around the country and test if they sell regardless of the shape. While customers were picky about the look of their produce in the past, the belief may have changed. If it has, then retailers should include all different shapes. I believe customers are more concerned about blemishes on their fruits and vegetables rather than the size.

  6. Coumba Niang says:

    Companies such as Misfits Market and Imperfect produce should be awarded carbon credit in the event they are able to prove their impact on carbon reduction in from the production to retailing. However, if these companies directly purchase from farmers, as mentioned in the article, it can be an incentive to assess the carbon footprint but also help farmers reduce waste. These ugly produces, when not comforming the wanted “aesthetic” of consumers, can be bought by manufacturers, or small business owners to make product such as sauces because the taste and quality is still the same. I believe that retailers should create incentive to market ugly produce as eatable and they can do that through marketing and also demonstrating their commitment to sustainability.

  7. Vikram Narendra says:

    I think platforms such as the Misfits Market and Imperfect Produce are doing incredible work in providing a market for the “Ugly- produce.” Since food is available at considerably lower prices, it expands access to nutritious food to lower-income people. The 20 percent of the produce that doesn’t meet grocery standards is a significant number. If this were to go to the retail stores, they would only end up in landfills, complicating the reverse logistics and increasing the overall cost, so I don’t think retailers should be accepting this produce. The newfound platforms can positively impact the environment with economies of scale and should be rightly awarded carbon credits.

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