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Ugly is the new Beautiful – Imperfect Food’s Goal to Give Ugly Food a Second Shelf-life

America has a food problem and it’s not the way you may think. Yes, we do have an obesity population of 36.2% since American’s love nothing more than to eat at the Golden Arches for their meals, but we also have a problem regarding how much food we produce every year. It is currently estimated that supermarkets contribute to 10% of all the United States food waste yearly, equating to roughly 43 billion pounds thrown out. It only gets worse from there. Every year, 35% of food grown is uneaten, 24% of what goes into our landfills is food, and 130 billion worth of meals are thrown out. Amongst the biggest contributors to the waste is produce, where the supply chain throws out around 45% of all produce that comes into the stores. For those visual learners, for every tomato a farmer grows, almost half of all his produce will end up as waste, and that’s just for the produce that actually makes it in stores. If you have ever tried to grow your own vegetables or fruits, you know the different shapes, sizes, and natural blemishes that form. By the United States supermarket standards, all produce must meet certain criteria before it is put on the shelves so that everything looks uniform and has the “perfect” image of what said item should look like in the consumers mind. Got an apple that is slightly not as red as the others, an avocado that has some sunspots on it, or a tomato that just looks flat out ugly? Too bad, although they might be perfectly edible, they get thrown out immediately.

Enter Imperfect Foods. Their mission is simple: deliver affordable and sustainable produce to people in an effort to prevent further food waste cause from ugliness. Founded in 2015 with a goal of helping the food waste issue here in the United States, the company has taken the unique approach of offering foods that farmers would otherwise have to discard because it does not meet the regulatory standards in order for them to be placed in mass markets. Since its founding, the company has saved 139 million pounds of food, bolsters 400,000 active customers through its buy as you like model and has expanded operations to 38 different states, offering no subscription or signup fees. Additionally, Imperfect Foods has now expanded its catalog outside of conventional fruits and veggies. Now, the company with a sustainability focus, has include dairy, plant-based substitutes, snacks, and traditional proteins in its arsenal, making it a more typical one-stop grocery website so as to maximize revenue from customers who might otherwise go to the store for other products. Operating on a seasonal calendar, the Imperfect Foods team minimizes the agricultural impact caused by growing foods out of season, ensuring the best produce possible. Further, the company gives some impressive statistics that can be achieved by shopping with them for one year. One year as an Imperfect shopper equates to 288 to 384 pounds of food saved, 9000+ gallons of water conserved, 38 hours saved from grocery shopping, and 192 to 288 pounds of carbon dioxide prevented from entering the atmosphere.

Although I have yet to try Imperfect Foods myself given me being a recent college graduate, I have a few friends who have tried the program and seem to enjoy seeing how ugly the foods can be at times. Give it a try yourself and let us know what you think about ugly foods in general. Will people be eating purely ugly foods in the future, or will the market continue to remain somewhat niche?


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