Is now the perfect time for grocers to sell imperfect food?
With inflation and a potentially looming recession at the forefront of the U.S. consumer’s mind, many are reining in spending and looking for ways to bring down their grocery bills. At the same time, people are more accustomed than ever to buying groceries online despite the added expense. This confluence of circumstances could be a boon for a couple of grocery delivery startups selling the kind of produce that often gets tossed out unnecessarily.
Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods are services that focus on selling and delivering surplus produce, direct-from-supplier produce or “ugly” organic produce — the type of fruits and vegetables that are high quality but often end up as food waste because of superficial imperfections, according to Healthline.
Both companies offer pantry items as well, and Imperfect Foods offers a line of snacks made from ingredients that would have been otherwise thrown away by suppliers. Misfits Market promises that members, who can join for free, will pay up to 40 percent less for groceries. Both tout reducing food waste as a prime goal of the service.
Even before the recent bout of inflation and increased price consciousness, grocers were trying to find something to do with ugly produce.
Whole Foods in 2016 partnered with Imperfect Produce to pilot bringing ugly fruits and vegetables to its store shelves. (Crunchbase lists Imperfect Produce as an AKA for Imperfect Foods.)
Walmart attempted a similar in-store test of its own. By 2019, however, both Whole Foods and Walmart had quietly ended their pilots of ugly produce, according to The Globe And Mail. Price Chopper, another grocer that attempted and abandoned such a pilot, cited low customer interest.
Ugly produce startups are not the only discounters offering grocery delivery.
In 2017 Aldi began offering delivery through Instacart.
Dollar stores have also gotten in on the home grocery delivery craze. In 2021, Dollar Tree-owned Family Dollar began offering same-day delivery through Instacart.
Instacart has been trying to address consumer cost-consciousness on its own as well. Last year it added a deals section to its app specifically intended to make purchasing groceries via app more affordable.
- Misfits Market vs. Imperfect Foods: Which Sustainable Produce Delivery Service Is Best? – Healthline
- Will Aldi upset the grocery home delivery cart? – RetailWire
- Imperfect Produce – Crunchbase
- Will same-day delivery pay off for dollar stores? – RetailWire
- Instacart wants to make online grocery shopping more affordable – RetailWire
- Walmart and Whole Foods end ‘ugly produce’ tests, suggesting trend may have limits – The Globe And Mail
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think economic conditions will push people who still want grocery delivery in the direction of services like Misfit Market and Imperfect Foods? Do you see mainstream grocers following suit and adding “ugly” produce to their product mix?