Grocery Chain Raley’s to Curb Food Waste by Selling Imperfect Produce

The California-based chain is selling imperfect product at a discount in an effort to curb food waste

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Less-than-perfect produce is still perfectly edible, but is often overlooked because it doesn’t fit the bill of what people want in their produce. 

Raley’s, a grocery chain with over 100 stores throughout California and Nevada, is starting a pilot program in 10 northern California stores called “Real Good” in July. They will sell less-than-perfect produce, which, although completely safe to eat, is often overlooked by consumers in search of “perfect” produce. The so-called imperfect fruits and vegetables will be available for around 30-40 percent discount.

Buying produce is an exercise with our eyes. We sort through bushels of apples and boxes of strawberries looking for the perfect specimen, and discard those that don’t meet our expectations.

It’s this mentality of demanding perfection in our produce that is helping contribute to the worldwide problem of food waste. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, food waste costs the world $2.6 trillion yearly.

Grocery chains often avoid less-than-perfect fruit altogether because customers simply aren’t interested in it. Anywhere between 1 to 30 percent of a farmer’s crop doesn’t make it to grocery stores, which greatly contributes to food waste, explains the National Resources Defense Council.

Working with a startup company called Imperfect, Raley’s, which has 128 locations, is trying to change the narrative of what we look for in in our produce. 

“Fruits and vegetables come in all shapes and sizes, just like people,” says Imperfect co-founder of Ben Simon in a promo video for Imperfect. “The weird-looking fruits and vegetables taste just as good as the perfect-looking ones. Unfortunately, supermarkets reject the produce that doesn’t look perfect.”

The idea of selling less-than-perfect fruit isn’t new, but we will have to wait and see if it will catch on in other American grocery chains.

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