Eating ugly can help to reduce food waste

ugly-fruits-veggiesI am sure you already noticed that fruits and vegetables in supermarket are always looking perfect. Tomatoes are not red, they are perfectly red; apples are not round, they are perfectly round. But this has a cost. About a third of planet’s food goes to waste mostly because of its looks[1] and this is exactly the same amount if we only focus on Europe. Of course, we can only be chocked when we know that not everyone has enough food on the planet and that the number of its inhabitants is growing. Plus, this is not only food that is wasted but also all the energy consumed to grow this food. Farmers are producing products that never arrive into our plate because they do not reach the standards to be sold. As if fruits and vegetables that are, we can say so, ugly were not good to eat.

But what is exactly a fresh product that is out of the standards? It can be a question of size, too small to finish on the supermarket stalls. It can have an irregular shape or it doesn’t look really attractive without a unique colour. There are various reasons for a green product to be refused from sale. But at which moment did we accept that “ugly” fruits and vegetables are not good enough for us?

In 2014, it was the European Union Year against Food Waste and a European campaign was launched about this “ugly” food. A French supermarket decided to sell these ugly products, and cheaper. It was very successful and had an international visibility but it was only temporary. The supermarkets are still today the place where this food is distinguished because of the standards. But we can actually find other alternatives in Europe that try to do an ugly fruits and veggies come back!

uglyapleOf course, the best to avoid this waste is to go to buy straight to farmers. But because we don’t all have the chance to live close to farmers some people are acting like go-between. For example in Portugal you can find the Fruta Feia[2] initiative that goes from the farmers to the people. In France you have a group named Gueules Cassées that is trying to bring back this food to supermarkets with a lower price and a label on it. This group decided to spread the message internationally and created an English website with an international label: Ugly Muds[3]. A lot of countries in Europe got interested by the concept and you can now find Ugly Muds in several countries (with different names in the country speaking language).

This supermarket campaign helped to create awareness around this topic but, as usual, some brands tried to make business out of it and even tried to give some trendy names to these vegetables to be sure to sell them. Does the consumer really need to be trapped by marketing to buy ugly fruits and vegetables? In fact no, because some surveys showed that almost half of the people are ready to buy ugly.[4]The good thing is that the subject is now known better and some restaurants are even promoting that these poor fruits and vegetables are as tasty as the others. We can hope that in the future these standards will disappear and that all fruits and vegetables, no matter their look, will be sold and offered to the consumer. Because ugly products are still products and if sold cheaper, it is really an opportunity for the consumer.

And you, are you ready to eat ugly?

by Amelys Erard

[1]                                                                                                                                 [2]                                                                                                       [3]                                                                               [4]

Pictures: Intermarché campaign “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”


2 thoughts on “Eating ugly can help to reduce food waste”

  1. I’m ready! It took a long time for me to learn that just picking the largest fruits and veggies didn’t always result in the best tasting fruits and veggies, but it’s absolutely true. Curvy C-shaped skinny cucumbers are always delicious and carrots in the same batch taste the same to me whether they’re forked, stubby, or perfectly coloring-book carrot-shaped.

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