Nevertheless, the U.S. is trying to grow the market for ugly produce. Bon Appetit Management Co., a food service company owned by Compass Group USA, launched a program called Imperfectly Delicious Produce, in which the company buys ugly produce to be used in meals served in its 500 cafes spread throughout 33 states. Hungry Harvest, a community-supported agriculture venture in Maryland and Washington, D.C., sells boxes of ugly produce and for every box sold, another box is donated to less fortunate families. Andronico’s Community Markets, a five-store gourmet grocery chain in California, sells ugly produce that local growers do not sell in large bins outside its stores for discounted prices. U.S. supermarkets might soon see plenty of ugly produce in the aisles.
“I think you’re already seeing the trend having a foundation and continuing to take a stronghold in the [U.S.] marketplace,” says Frank S. Paone, director of marketing at Procacci Brothers.
“The ushering in of the crave for more ‘natural’ food products has certainly helped the cause for ugly produce in America,” he says. “Aesthetic deformities happen—they’re a part of growing produce and retailers are helping to use it as a marketing tool that’s showing success. It’s always eye-catching to see something that stands out from the norm on a display and when you merchandise or sign it, it helps sell it that much more. The bigger emphasis is on grower safety and values, as well as flavor, which is the most important to consumers.”
“When we started growing our Uglyripe Heirloom Tomato over 10 years ago, we knew it went against the grain of how other tomatoes on the shelf looked,” continues Paone. “We also knew that the taste was what mattered and we didn’t care that they were ‘uglier’…tomato growers and other produce growers are doing well in finding opportunity to put flavor at the top and embracing the outcome that their product is not all going to look the same.”
Pantano is an editorial intern for Wiley U.S. B2B editorial division.