French Supermarket Found a New Way to Sell “Ugly” Produce
Let’s face it: we’re superficial food snobs. What food looks like is almost as important to us as how it tastes or itsnutritional value.
There are obviously sensual aspects to food and eating that we can’t deny: smell, texture, color. But just because a piece of food isn’t especially beautiful to the eye doesn’t detract from its other attributes.
And when you consider the essence of food, being absolutely necessary to our existence, it is humbling to think that we would dismiss or discard something because it doesn’t meet our perception of perfection.
Don’t Judge a Produce by Its Shape.
Enter practicality and pragmatism: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a misshapen fruit or vegetable. Frenchsupermarket chain Intermarché has begun a campaign against food waste and has innovatively begun marketing imperfect produce–at a 30 percent discount.
This move is brilliant in so many ways: local farmers can sell what would otherwise be tossed as garbage, thesupermarket makes money on unique novelty items, and consumers get healthy food at a great discount. Win-win-win.
The one obstacle was the window-dressing: how to get us food snobs to consider the imperfect beautiful in its own way. So far, Intermarché has been very successful.
Glory to The Inglorious.
Called “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”, they are given their own aisle at the market. Initially, consumers were slow on the uptake (shoulders squared, nose in the air) but once the humorous advertising campaign began, more were willing to take a chance.
The campaign’s photographer, Patrice de Villiers, gives her perspective:
“The most vital element was ensuring the ‘strange but lovable’ theme shone through. I spent time observing our uglies trying to find the precise angle which showed both their ‘ugliness’ and their loveliness, finding their unique character.”
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Posters of The Disfigured Eggplant, Hideous Orange, Ridiculous Potato, Ugly Carrot, Failed Lemon, and Grotesque Apple stress the idea that how a food looks doesn’t translate to its value as a delicious, healthy, and meaningful part of your diet. The ads caught on.
The supermarkets offered samples of dishes prepared with the misshapen produce to prove it tastes just as good as the “normal” foods. Once you cut them up or take your first bite, you don’t know what it looked like whole, anyway. The produce began to move at a rapid rate, selling out and increasing overall supermarket traffic by twenty-four percent.
2014: The Year Against Food Waste
Intermarché’s pledge to combat food waste comes as part of a European Union decree that 2014 is the year against food waste as the result of news that three hundred million tons of food gets tossed each year. That’s 600 billion pounds. There is always some waste due to spoilage, etc.–that’s not the issue. It’s the volume that is way out of balance.
With forty percent of the food produced in the U.S. going to waste, this model may be a practical and profitable option here as well. Andronico’s markets in Northern California have a similar successful program for undersized and imperfect apples.
It’s a Matter of Perception, Not Content–Image Over Substance.
As the National Resources Defense Council reports, there are many factors in the food waste equation; “imperfect product” is one of them. With the number of people in the U.S. alone that are undernourished and/or requiring public assistance to buy food, we need to get over our superficial focus.
No one likes when it’s applied to humans, so why should it apply to something so simple and important as food? It’s amazing that the overwhelming majority of living things that Nature creates come out looking as “normal” as they do. Let’s not throw away the bounty–rather, let us redefine our image to allow a truly fancy fruit and vigorous vegetable.