Asda to launch ‘wonky veg’ trial to reduce food waste
Supermarket chain Asda will begin selling misshapen fruit and vegetables at five of its stores later this month, in a bid to reduce food waste.
The ‘Beautiful on the Inside’ trial, beginning on 26 January, will see crooked carrots, misshapen potatoes and other knobbly fruit and vegetables sold at reduced prices to shoppers. The campaign will be supported by marketing material featuring characters such as: Carlos Citrus; Paul Potato; Suzie Swede; Claude Carrot; Alfie Apple; and Penny Pear.
Jamie Oliver behind the trial
The trial has been established in collaboration with TV chef Jamie Oliver and Suffolk-based farmer Jimmy Doherty, in tandem with their new TV series Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, which highlights the provenance of our food, and sees celebrities cook their favourite dishes.
In the first episode of the series (which aired on Channel 4 on Friday, 2 January), the hosts talked to farmers who lamented the fact that retailers are wasting ‘significant’ amounts of fruit and vegetables due to tough quality controls on physical appearance.
As such, the pair approached Asda with idea of running a small in-store trial to understand customer perceptions of wonky produce and whether they would be willing to buy it. (The Institution of Mechanical Engineers last year released a report calling 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’.)
A similar trial launched by French supermarket chain Intermarché in July 2014 was considered to be a success after all of the 600 pounds (lbs) of ‘ugly’ carrots, apples and oranges were sold and footfall traffic increased by 24 per cent in the first three days of the campaign.
‘Making “ugly” food more accessible for shoppers and families’
Ian Harrison, Asda’s Produce Technical Director, commented: "Even if fruit and veg have some knobbles and blemishes, this doesn’t affect the quality or taste – a carrot is still a carrot. Customers are simply looking for great tasting, fresh produce at a value price.
“We’ve been working very closely with our farmers to make sure we have excellent knowledge of our supply chain. Our growers are savvy and already use a large percentage of this ‘wonky’ crop for further processing, for things like ready meals and juicing, but we saw an opportunity to extend this even more.”
He added: “There is still work to be done in encouraging customers to give ‘wonky’ fruit and veg a go, but we hope our campaign will break down some of those barriers and make ‘ugly’ food more accessible for shoppers and families.”
The trial will begin on 26 January at the following Asda stores:
- Bedminster (Bristol); and
- Wallington (Croydon).
Asda has stated that if the campaign is a ‘success’, there ‘could be an opportunity to expand the trial across other fresh produce lines’.
Oliver added: “If most Brits had half an idea of the amount going to waste, they’d be snapping up ugly veg by the trolley load. There’s no difference whatsoever in taste or nutritional value. This is perfectly good food that could and should be eaten by humans.”
The topic of waste is gaining increasing airtime, and later this year the BBC will run a TV series on waste hosted by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.