How do you feel about oversized melons? Engorged eggplants? Crooked carrots?
Euphemisms, these are not.
They’re the grocery store-rejected fruits and vegetables being saved from a landfill by Imperfect Produce, now delivering to your door.
“The number one reason why we get produce is it’s a little bit too big or a little bit too small, the second biggest reason is there’s a little bit of scarring,” co-founder Ben Simon explains. “The reality is that 98% of the product looks almost exactly like you would see in a grocery store, which begs the question: Why was this getting rejected in the first place?”
It’s being rejected because people have become increasingly paranoid about what their food should look like (thanks, emojis), which has led to an under-the-radar environmental disaster in the U.S.: food waste.
To boil it down: around 40% of food produced in the U.S. gets thrown away, making it the single largest contributor to landfills.
To reverse this trend, Simon — along with partners Ben Chesler and Ron Clark — started Imperfect Produce, partnering with farms to reclaim this perfectly edible food. After starting on the West Coast, the company is expanding eastward. Chicago is their first Midwest location.
(L-R) Co-founders Ron Clark, Ben Simon and Ben Chesler. Photo: Colette Krey
Consider interest piqued. So how’s it work?
- Pick one of four box types: organic, mixed fruit and vegetables, all fruit or all vegetables.
- Customize what kinds of produce you want in your box. Unlike a CSA or farm share, you’re not beholden to what is being grown on one specific estate. They work with a variety of farms to offer you choice.
- Select how often you want boxes delivered.
- Pay 30-50% less than you would at your typical grocer, because as Simon notes, farmers used to think of this simply as “byproduct.”
Food Waste (2 images)
So when the day comes, and you open up your box of viands, what should you expect?
“One of the biggest pieces of feedback we get after people open their boxes: ‘This isn’t as imperfect as I thought it would be,’” says Simon. “With our marketing with Imperfect Produce, we capture the two percent of product that looks truly wonky.” The rest is indistinguishable from the offerings at Mariano’s or Whole Foods.
A lifestyle change that will benefit the planet but won’t mess with your routine? That, dear readers, is a resolution you can stick to.
Main image by Rob Schanz