UK supermarket giant Asda is trialing a new range of vegetable products it’s calling “Wonky Veg,” in a bid to reduce food waste.
The retailer created its new range of misshapen fruit and vegetables — sold at reduced prices — after working alongside TV chef Jamie Oliver on initiatives to reduce food waste. The project is to be trialed in five stores across the UK beginning January 26.
Taking a cue from Intermarché’s enormously successful “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign last year, the new range is labelled “Beautiful on the Inside” — highlighting that there is no difference in taste or nutritional value of the product — and features misshapen products such as carrots, potatoes and pears, all sold at reduced prices as part of their in-store fixture.
The initiative debuted on UK television screens on January 2, during the first episode of Oliver and Jimmy Doherty’s new series, "Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast." In the episode, the chefs spoke with farmers who revealed that significant amounts of their fruit and veg can’t be sold as fresh because they’re misshapen. The two chefs then approached Asda to gauge the retailer’s interest in running a trial to better understand consumer perception of wonky veg and whether it would be willing to buy it at reduced rates.
Asda concurred, saying that its own studies suggest that 75 percent of customers would be interested in purchasing the range if prices were lower.
“If most Brits had half an idea of the amount going to waste, they’d be snapping up ugly veg by the trolley load,” Oliver said. “There’s no difference whatsoever in taste or nutritional value. This is perfectly good food that could and should be eaten by humans.”
Ian Harrison, Asda’s technical director, commented: “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.
"There is still work to be done in encouraging customers to give ‘wonky’ fruit and veg a go,” Harrison added, “but we hope our campaign will break down some of those barriers and make ‘ugly’ food more accessible for shoppers and families."
If Intermarché's success is any indication, Asda won't have to work hard to convince their shoppers: The French retailer reported an average of 1.2 tons of their "Inglorious" produce flew off store shelves during the first two days of the initiative, as well as an overall store traffic increase of 24 percent.
The initiative also hopes to engage kids on the issue, too, by giving the wonky fruit and veg products cute names such as Carlos Citrus, Paul Potato, Suzie Swede, Claude Carrot, Alfie Apple and Penny Pear.
The trial will begin in five stores in the UK (Grantham, Coventry, Dagenham, Bedminster [Bristol] and Wallington [Croydon]) with hopes of expanding it across a wider range of stores if successful.
“We hope customers get behind our wonky fruit and veg campaign and if it’s a success, there could be an opportunity to expand the trial across other fresh produce lines, offering customers more choice and value with the wonky range,” Harrison said.
With staggering food waste figures across the Western world (estimates of 40 percent in the US alone), Europe last year launched an attack on the problem by launching a range of new technologies and initiatives to tackle it head-on. And last month, the UK launched its first “social supermarket” to address food poverty and waste by selling surplus food from the UK’s supermarkets at highly reduced prices.