Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Walmart sees beauty in ugly fruits and vegetables.
The nation’s largest grocer recently announced it will be selling ugly apples at a discounted price in 300 locations around Florida. Apples are the latest addition to Walmart’s wonky produce list, following misshapen potatoes, which started selling in Texas in May.
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"We're excited to announce that after months of discussion, a brand of apples from Washington state, called ‘I'm Perfect,’ will make its debut in Walmart stores this week," Shawn Baldwin, senior vice president for global food sourcing, produce and floral for Walmart US, wrote in a company blog post. "We're proud to be the first retailer to bring these apples to you."
These new initiatives are the first to sell produce specifically branded as imperfect or ugly on the packaging.
“What’s different now is that we’re having potatoes and apples of this grade on the shelf with branding,” said Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales. “This is the first time suppliers have to come up with brands that are related to selling ugly produce.”
In the US, nearly 30 percent of apples and pears are tossed because they aren’t pretty enough. Walmart is hoping to decrease this number with its new initiative and lessen food waste.
A petition was sent to Walmart with more than 143,000 signatures demanding the corporation to be more proactive in reducing food waste.
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“If produce fails to make the grade for size, shape, or color, retailers deem it ‘ugly’ and refuse to sell it in their stores,” the petition says. “Tell [Walmart] to add the ‘uglies’ to their store aisles so you can save money, fight hunger and help the environment all in one.”
This petition was enough to put ugly produce on the shelves in Florida.
As the nation’s largest grocer, Walmart has potential to make a real difference in the amount of food waste. With more than 4,000 stores nationwide, it can completely change the market.
Jordan Figueiredo, founder of the @UglyFruitAndVeg campaign and food waste activist, notes that Walmart’s UK chain, Asda, has had major success selling “wonky veg” boxes containing various misshapen fruits and veggies.
Although that same initiative is not in the cards for the US, the company is looking for innovative ways to sell misshapen produce, said Ales.
There is still a long way to go for reducing food waste, but Walmart has taken a step in the right direction.