British shoppers would buy ‘ugly’ fruit and veg

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has called on commercial buyers to stop rejecting imperfect looking food after finding that 80 per cent of British shoppers would buy fruit and vegetables that are ‘not perfect in shape or colour’.

The survey follows a report by the Institution released in January, which found that between 30-50 per cent of the food produced worldwide is never consumed by humans.

The report found that fruit and vegetable crops around the world are frequently not harvested or do not leave the farm after failing to meet tough quality controls on physical appearance imposed by retailers and supermarkets. 

However, according to the Institution’s most recent survey, released today (26 February), just 376 of the 2007 people surveyed (less than 20 per cent) said they would only buy ‘perfect looking produce'.

Other findings from the survey included:                                          

  • food45 per cent of people said that the appearance of fruit and vegetables doesn’t matter;
  • 26 per cent of people said they would buy the cheapest option; and
  • 10 per cent said they would actively choose imperfect looking produce.

The survey also found that men are the most concerned with cosmetically pleasing food, with 22 per cent choosing only perfect looking fruit and vegetables compared with 16 per cent of women.

Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “This survey clearly indicates that, despite perceptions held by commercial buyers, UK consumers are willing to purchase imperfect looking fruit and vegetables.

“There are various reasons why a staggering amount of food produce is not being consumed around the globe each year. In less developed countries many of the losses stem from issues like poorly engineered storage and transport infrastructure, but in developed countries like the UK food waste is largely the result of commercial practices, such as the demand for aesthetically pleasing food products, and wasteful behaviour in the home.”

Fox went on to urge “everybody, from the UN, government and retail business leaders through to people preparing their dinners at home”, to think about the amount of food wasted and the land, water and energy resources involved in bringing food to the plate.

“Eliminating this waste can go a long way towards meeting the food demands of our growing global population and free up water, energy and land for other human uses”, he concluded.

This survey follows a recent UN dinner, held in Nairobi for hundreds of high-level guests, which was made up of fruit and vegetables rejected by UK and European supermarkets on cosmetic grounds.

Read more about the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Survey.