When it comes to fruits and vegetables, Whole Foods is hoping to make the case that beauty is superficial—it’s the taste on the inside that really counts. According to a report by NPR, the announcement comes after a Change.org petition called upon the retailer to take up the cause of cutting food waste by stocking less-than-perfect fruits and veggies.
Consumers shop too strictly with their eyes, making visually unappealing produce (often called “seconds”) a big problem for farmers. They’re forced to overproduce, knowing a certain amount of the crop won’t make the grade. As for the seconds, it doesn’t make sense for them to sell the less beautiful produce for less money because it costs just as much to harvest, handle, and transport as the pretty stuff. While some farms are able to blanch and freeze their seconds, many lack the resources to adequately deal with such leftovers.
Whole Foods is banking that the widening awareness of the global food waste problem will mean customers are ready to embrace ugly foods. Similar efforts by the French supermarket chain Intermarche has resulted in boosted sales—and buzz surrounding its Inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign.
Somewhat ironically, the announcement from Whole Foods comes on the heels of the social media backlash the grocer received from selling pre-peeled oranges packaged in plastic containers. While prepared foods are helpful for those with disabilities making it tough to prepare food themselves, the grocer subsequently called the product a mistake and removed it from its shelves.
Hopefully the ugly food experiment is met with better results.