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SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction

The Hidden Beauty of Ugly Food

01 Aug 2016

A report from the FAO North America Liaison Office in Washington D.C. Written by Genna Tesdall.

The ugly food fever has spread to the United States. US groceries, including Walmart, Whole Foods, and Giant Eagle have a beautiful answer to food waste: ugly produce. Walmart writes, “food waste is an ugly problem to face.” Many consumers seem to agree.

Mid-July, Walmart introduced a weather damaged apples in Florida grocery stores marketed under the brand “I’m Perfect” as part of its commitment to reduce food waste in its stores. This initiatives follows sales of weather damaged “Spuglies” Russet potatoes in Texas stores earlier this year. Whole Foods introduced an initiative for imperfect produce in Northern California, and the Pittsburg-based grocer Giant Eagle launched the similar line “Produce with Personality.” Given the large market share of Walmart, their addition is a huge step forward in the fight against US food waste.

Civil society is also engaged in this private sector development. Food waste activist, @ulgyfruitandveg campaign founder, and change.org petitioner Jordan Figueiredo collected 149,000 signatures in an effort to convince Walmart to save cosmetically damaged produce by selling it at a discount, reducing food waste, and improving fresh produce accessibility to impoverished Americans. Although he is pleased by the commitment to source ugly produce, he maintains that US groceries should expand their programs nation-wide and to more types of produce.

The move towards imperfect food is a logical development for US industry. Increasing awareness of the food loss and food waste issue, both in the public and private sectors, provides a foundation for an ugly food market. The success of ugly food in Europe points to a new market opportunity that will meet a new consumer demand. Furthermore, decreasing food waste will increase supply chain efficiency and may allow groceries to offer lower prices.

Most Americans with the ugly food fever will have to wait a bit longer for imperfect produce to reach their groceries. Until then, we can take heart that ugly produce is recognized as a beautiful solution.

 

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