The “Ugly” Fruit and Veg Campaign – a movement battling needless cosmetic standards in produce and fighting the war on waste. This campaign is changing the perception of "ugly" one misshapen fruit and veg at a time...
In the United States alone, 20-40% (with similar figures worldwide) of all produce goes to waste purely based on the strict cosmetic standards required by grocery stores. I’m not talking about items which are bruised, overripe, or inedible – these fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious and taste the same as your standard produce, they just look a little different: too big, too small, misshaped, or as Jordan Figueiredo calls them – just right. The “Ugly” Fruit and Veg campaign (started by Figueiredo) has skyrocketed to fame through the world of social media, and is now one of the most influential campaigns against food waste in the US. A hobby turned movement, this all started with #funactivism through the creation of social media accounts used to show off these funky fruit and veg, whilst encouraging others to do the same. Now reaching and connecting with people in 190 countries, big moves are being made to encourage grocery chains to stock “ugly” fruit and vegetables. United States food giants are jumping on board with Kroger establishing a goal for zero food wastage by 2025, Whole Foods already committed to the cause but lacking transparency on their food wastage numbers, Walmart making smaller changes that are adding up, and smaller stores country wide taking on the challenge in their own ways.
Following in Figueiredo’s footsteps, moves have been made worldwide with similar programs and awareness campaigns being run globally. In Australia the three-part ABC series War on Waste shed light on the situation – delving into the beauty contest within the Australian banana industry and increasing pressure on Australian grocers. Turns out they were listening with an Odd Bunch range now on the shelves at a cheaper price in Australian and New Zealand grocery leaders, and companies such as Imperfections offering subscription boxes for “ugly” produce Australia wide. Similarly, the BBC series Hugh’s War on Waste is continually raising awareness in the UK. Tesco’s Perfectly Imperfect range with parsnips, potatoes and fruit is one of the most popular programs being run, while Asda is succeeding with their Wonky Veg Boxes now in 300 of their larger stores, being sold at a reduced price (30% less); Sainsbury’s started a campaign to encourage the use of blemished bananas. In France, Intermarché sold 1.2 tonnes of “ugly” veg per store within the first two days of starting their campaign and Fruta Feia (Ugly Fruit) in Portugal contacts farmers to buy up all the “ugly” fruit and veg they can get their hands on. The low prices of their boxes are so popular people now have to join a waiting list to partake.
By joining the cause these companies are leading by example, adding increasing pressure onto those companies yet to jump on board, and paving the way for “ugly” fruit and vegetables. Figueiredo is happy with the moves being made but feels more can be done. Stores need to be transparent about their exact changes and statistics, and he believes that farmers deserve close to full price for their “ugly” produce rather than the heavily discounted rates they are getting.
It isn’t just companies who can get on board with this, consumers fuel the fire as most choose their groceries based on appearance. Figueiredo suggests helping out by: trying some of the listed supermarket ranges, subscribing to an “ugly” fruit and veg subscription box, heading to your local farmers markets (which have less strict cosmetic standards), sharing your photos with the “Ugly” Fruit and Veg Campaign socials, and signing petitions. These simple behaviour changes made by consumers will increase the demand for “ugly” fruit and veg, pushing the movement forward – plus you’ll be doing your own part for food wastage worldwide.