France has been doing it for a while. Whole Foods recently started doing it. And now Walmart has announced that it is the latest supermarket chain to bring imperfect produce—blemished, misshapen, or otherwise strange looking fruits and vegetables (apples in Walmart’s case)—to its stores in an effort to combat the global food waste problem.
“For more than a decade, we’ve been doing our part by changing the way we do business and working to create a zero waste future, especially where fresh produce is concerned,” Shawn Baldwin, SVP – Global Food Sourcing, Produce and Floral, Walmart U.S., wrote on the company’s website.
The company will begin selling imperfect apples labeled as "I’m Perfect" in Walmart stores this week. The apples, which will sell at a discounted price because of their imperfections, will be available at the chain’s 300 store locations in Florida to start, with more stores to follow.
"Because ugly produce can occur unexpectedly in any growing season or crop, we want to have the systems in place to offer this type of produce whenever it may occur."
According to Baldwin, "Mother Nature can throw a curveball such as a hailstorm, high winds or even a string of very hot sunny days, which can damage the exterior finish of fruits,” he explains. “While the texture and flavor remain perfect, the exterior damage usually renders these fruits unsellable in the fresh market because they fail to meet traditional grade standards.”
Imperfect produce has traditionally taken a toll on farmers--as much as 40 percent of a harvest can be rendered unsellable by those “curveballs”. But as countries across the globe turn their attention toward reducing food waste, utilizing as much of a harvest as possible is one of the easiest and most economical starting points. The UN estimates $1 trillion worth of food goes uneaten every year.
For farmers, finding a market for the less desirable fruits and vegetables means less of their crop is lost and profits can increase; for retailers, it brings in additional revenue streams as well. But for the consumer, it’s also a win-win—a less expensive healthy food they can feel good about by both keeping that food from being wasted and by empowering the farmers who grow it.
“Food waste is a big problem that will only get bigger as the world’s population grows,” wrote Frank Yiannas, Walmart’s Vice President of Food Safety. “Countries around the globe are realizing we’re not going to be able to produce our way to feeding 9 billion people, so we have to reduce food waste now.”
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apples image via Shutterstock