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Is There a Business Case for Selling Ugly Fruit and Vegetables?

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Does appearance matter? After all, beauty is only skin deep, right? While we'd like to believe this is the way things should be, life teaches us this is not the case, not even when it comes to fruit and vegetables.

When was the last time you bought ugly fruit or vegetables? A misshapen cucumber, a deformed carrot, or a discolored zucchini? You probably have a hard time remembering because these sorts of 'ugly' fruits and vegetables are screened and thrown away before they reach the supermarket's shelves to ensure customers see only fruits and vegetables with perfect (or near perfect) shape, size, and color.

The result is that we have a wasteful food system - in the UK, for example, according to the Soil Association, 20-40 percent of produce is rejected because it's misshapen. If you wonder why the produce doesn't get used for canned goods or processed foods rather than being sent to the landfill, NRDC's report on the wasteful American food system has the answer, "Although some off-grade products - those that are not of a quality grade to sell to major markets - go to processing, many do not. Most large processors have advanced contracts with suppliers and often require specific attributes that make the product amenable to processing," it explains.

The size of this wasteful phenomenon has driven a growing number of entrepreneurs and organizations to look for ways to change this unsustainable reality.

One of latest effort is the 'ugly fruit' campaign from three German students trying to make the case that selling ugly produce is not just about being more sustainable but also about taking advantage of a business opportunity. But are the students right? Is there really a business case for selling ugly fruit and vegetables?  


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