Want This New Concept? Inglorious Vegetables and Fruit
Anyone who takes the time to grow their own vegetables knows that they don't always come out as pretty and perfectly shaped as you find them in the grocery stores. The twisted, the disfigured, and the grotesque are weeded out before they go to market. While some are used in juices, the truth is that they often go to waste. In Europe famers discard 300 million tonnes of these fruits and vegetables a year -- until now.
Globally we waste 25-30% of the food we produce. The Intermarche chain of French supermarkets has chosen to take a bite out of this colossal waste of perfectly edible food and has adopted some of these tasty orphans. They are being offered for 30% less than their prettier siblings. They created a campaign celebrating what the YouTube blurbs call:
"...celebrating the beauty of the Grotesque Apple, the Ridiculous Potato, the Hideous Orange, the Failed Lemon, the Disfigured Eggplant, the Ugly Carrot, and the Unfortunate Clementine."
European Union regulators insist that fruits and vegetables conform to a rather strict size and shape appearance requirements for each type of produce before it can be sold. While this is a great way to micromanage the lives of Europeans, it leads to a great deal of wasted edible food and much higher prices than there would be otherwise. There really isn't any real added value to fruit and veg being pretty.
A bifurcated carrot is just as healthy and tasty as a nice straight one. A potato with extra bulbs on it is still just a potato. These deformities can be caused by various conditions during growing that do not make them any less than the pretty ones -- except in appearance.
Intermarche's campaign was a huge success and the only problem they really encountered were empty bins as the fruits and veggies sold out. The ever thrifty French cleaned that produce out at the rate of 1.2 million tonnes a day per store. If that weren't enough the stores saw a 24% boost in foot traffic during the period. The chain claims to have reached 13 million people. Those are amazing results. The humorous approach to the issue didn't hurt either.
The one thing that seems to be missing from this story is whether or not EU regulators took notice of this sales campaign. Since this crossed their line of requiring pretty fruits and vegetables you would think that they would have taken Intermarche to task.
On the other side of the coin are the French media and others saying that this is an idea that should be spread throughout every grocery store in France. Auchan and Monorpix, two other large French supermarket chains, are following suit.
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Laurie Kay Olson
Clever Problem Solvers