[Urban Food Interview]: How one company reduces produce waste in London < Back to Urban Vine Co Blog Homepage

[Urban Food Interview]: How one London-based company is fighting to stop produce waste

The issue with ugly produce

If you could be less wasteful with your food, you would...right?

Not so fast. According to Emilie Vanpoperinghe, founder of London-based ugly produce rescue company Tasty Misfits, over 60% of respondents in a recent ASDA survey indicated that they would be open to the idea of oddly shaped fresh produce and 75% would buy ‘wonky’ if it was cheaper.

But the actions of grocery store consumers, especially in the UK, tell a different story. It turns out that most consumers are more superficial about the produce they buy in supermarkets, even if only on a subconscious level. Much more superficial.

Why is this?

As BonAppetit.com contributor Rochelle Bilow states in her popular 2014 article "Are the Beauty Standards for Fruits & Vegetables Unfair?", the consumer does not have much else to judge the quality of their produce off of besides appearance in today's supermarkets. 

Produce is often shipped from far away locations and heavily refrigerated, sorted, and processed (even organic produce!).

Because of this fact, grocery chains have extremely high standards for appearance, and stores routinely reject over 30% of their produce inventory based off of visual flaws.

Tasty Misfits: a solution to supermarket produce waste

Enter Emilie Vanpoperinghe and Tasty Misfits

Following an upbringing in France and experience living in India, both cultures where food waste was discouraged, Vanpoperinghe was surprised with the vast amount of waste still present in the United Kingdom after relocating to reside in  London, "I’m from a rural upbringing and as I child I was always encouraged not to waste food".

Tasty Misfits works to salvage produce destined for waste by UK supermarkets, due to cosmetic reasons or over quota shipments, and redistributes the same produce at discount once per week in southwest London.

According to Vanpoperinghe, the most common types of produce are onions, bell pepper, potatoes, apples, pears, and carrots, although there is variability throughout the year.

Subscribers must sign up for delivery by midnight on Tuesday evenings in order to receive their box early on Saturday morning.

The biggest challenge, says Vanpoperinghe, is the logistics of the Tasty Misfits operation, "Getting enough variety of wonky produce and the interest of farmers to work with us as we are slowly scaling up".

The service is just recently starting to gain a following, and Vanpoperinghe predicts a more concerted push toward growth in the coming months.

The Tasty Misfits team recently partnered with one of the Economist's PR agency in London to hand out free smoothies made with their wonky fruits and vegetables in an effort to spread awareness.

Goals for the future

Although some UK supermarkets are selling more "ugly produce" to consumers, Vanpoperinghe points out these campaigns are loss leaders for supermarkets, and that this addresses only a very small portion of the waste generated in the supermarket’s supply chain.

Perhaps even more concerning, the market for grocery chains in the UK is exploding, according to data published by BBC showing supermarket quantity between 2004-2010 in the UK (seen below).

At the current pace, more supermarkets means higher demand for perfect produce, which  means more wasted ugly produce.

With this trend in mind, services like Tasty Misfits are not only more necessary than ever in the UK, but also entering a huge market opportunity.

Tasty Misfits has an important advantage over competing produce in a box services as well, with the ability to price below its competitors (around 30% less) due to relationships with produce wholesalers.

Asked about future goals, Vanpoperinghe states that many markets have a need for a service like Tasty Misfits, B2B customers, and special events. These types of potential customers will be the focus of upcoming targeted marketing campaigns.

But the core mission, regardless of who the customers are, still will remain the same, "we want to be part of solving some of the issues of our time; we want to help fix the problem of food waste".

For more information on Tasty Misfits:

Tasty Misfits Website
Tasty Misfits Twitter
Tasty Misfits Facebook

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