Walking through the supermarket aisles here in the UK, or even back in New Zealand, I find that I’m amazed at how perfect the fruit and vegetables look. I certainly know that my own, home-grown produce can’t begin to compare.
But the appearance of a piece of fruit, to take one example, doesn’t tell you much about the taste. I often found that apples sold in UK supermarkets could be rather bland and lacking in flavour. I’d always assumed that farmers and fruit growers use specialist production techniques in order to produce such specimens. It appears, however, that this is only true to a limited extent.
The reality is that they also produce plenty of imperfect products, but those never make it to the supermarket. So where do they end up? It seems that poor quality apples will be fed to animals, or may even end up in landfill. In fact, up to 30% of all fruits and vegetables that are grown never actually make it to the consumer.
This seems like an incredibly sad situation. There’s an enormous amount of waste and it can be seen as a reflection of the fact that the supermarkets perceive many of us to be pretty fussy. That’s why they won’t put some products on the shelves: there’s a belief that we’ll complain, or that we’ll all be disappointed.
Given this background, I’ve been interested to hear about an experiment that is being carried out in the United States. A small chain of shops in Northern California, known as Andronico’s Community Market, has taken the decision to stock items that would usually be rejected.
What this means is that customers are being presented with apples that don’t meet the usual, strict, quality guidelines. In effect, customers are being offered such products at a discount price, reflecting the fact that they may not be perfect.
Apparently, the early evidence suggests that consumers have had an extremely positive reaction and that sales figures have been impressive.
This is an approach that can cut waste and also reduce costs for all of us. It’s clearly an initiative that should be welcomed and one that could be repeated here in the UK.