'Ugly' Fruits and Vegetables Focus of California Produce Delivery Startup

Think delicious fruits and vegetables have to look gorgeous? Think again. An Oakland-based startup called Imperfect has big plans to change that.

Imperfect’s founders, three veteran food-waste entrepreneurs, are “on a mission to bring ugly produce (they prefer the term “cosmetically challenged”) to, quite literally, your doorstep,” reports Grist.

“Our bold vision is for consumers across America to have the option of having a box of Imperfect produce delivered to them weekly, for 30 to 50 percent cheaper than [what they’ll find in] grocery stores,” Ben Simon, Imperfect’s cofounder told Grist.

The chain will get going in California’s Oakland and Berkeley areas over the next few months, with a goal of reaching 1,000 customers by year’s end.

While the chain will be focusing primarily on home delivery service, it will also work with supermarkets to create store displays of “cosmetically challenged” fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle. This was a tactic recently used in France where supermarkets setup areas of “ugly” fruits and vegetables with prices about 30 percent lower than the healthier looking stuff. The program was hugely successful and inspired Imperfect’s roll-out here in the U.S.

Imperfect’s supermarket program will specifically target low-income neighborhoods where fresh fruits and vegetables are often hard to come by while fast food and junk foods are readily available.

“We’re tipping the scale so that McDonald’s is no longer the most convenient, affordable option in food deserts — now, fresh produce is,” Simon wrote in an email to Grist.

Imperfect is able to offer such great discounts because it works with farmers who would otherwise throw away the less that perfect looking fruits and vegetables. By preventing them from ending up in the trash or compost, Imperfect is able to provide farmers with additional income while offering consumers healthy food options at exceptional prices.

According to Grist, these imperfect fruits and veggies account for roughly 7 percent of the produce that’s grown in the U.S. each year, which is often just left in the fields to rot.

And there’s another benefit to Imperfect’s program. Fighting food waste, the company says, is also helpful in water conservation. Food requires water and if that food goes uneaten, it’s a misuse of water, particularly in California where the state is now in its fourth year of a serious drought.

Image via Imperfect



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