Thursday, April 19, 2018

Imperfect Produce Delivers Ugly Produce to Your Door (And it isn’t even ugly)

Healthy, delicious fruits and veggies for 30-50% less than grocery stores.

One in five fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. doesn’t meet the strict cosmetic standards of grocery stores, usually causing them to go to waste on the farm. The heart-shaped potato, the curvy carrot, the oddly-shaped orange are all delicious and nutritious, but are often left to rot in fields or sent to the local landfill – just because they look different.

Founded in 2015, Imperfect Produce is an innovative food company bringing misshapen and yummy food to local tables. They launched this new delivery service in Seattle on October 23rd. 

Mixed Fruit & Veggie Box. Photo by Jennifer Liu.

Imperfect is on a social mission to eliminate food waste, help farmers benefit from a full harvest and make healthy fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable. Each customized box is filled with a variety of less-than-perfect (but, only barely) fruits and vegetables priced at 30-50% below grocery rates.

Last week, I received my first box of fruits and veggies and was pleasantly surprised to find that everything looked fresh and colorful. More importantly, everything also tasted wonderful. The oranges were sweet, tart, and juicy. I spiraled the zucchinis into noodles and topped it with homemade pesto. I’m planning to use the apples for an apple galette next week. I’ve signed up to receive a weekly delivery (you can also choose bi-weekly) and I can pause or cancel at any time.

“Wasting less food is about eating better and supporting farmers,” says founder Ben Simon. “By eating Imperfect fruits and veggies, you’re helping to change the food system, improve access to healthy food and protect the environment from the greenhouse gasses emitted by uneaten, decomposing food in landfills. Our company has kept over 5 million pounds of produce from going to waste at a time when 1 in 8 families are struggling to put food on the table. We want to eliminate the idea of the “food desert” with more accessibility and lower prices for families looking for healthy options.”

From Farm to Doorstep

Imperfect tries to source all their fruits and vegetables from regional farmers and uses a local delivery model with different distribution hubs. “We deliver our boxes as quickly as possible from farm to doorstep,” says Evan Pence, Pacific NW general manager. “Our new local distribution center is located within the Seattle metro area for easier distribution and quality control.” Imperfect offers a variety of boxes for singles and families, and each box can be customized with just the right mix of fruits and veggies – customers chose each item that arrives in their box each week.

Pricing

Boxes range from $11 to $43 (+ shipping) per week depending on what size you order: 

  • Small: 7-9lbs and serves 1-2 people
  • Medium: 11-13lbs and serves 2-4 people
  • Large: 17-19lbs and serves 4-6 people and
  • XL: 23-25lbs and serves 6-10 people

About Imperfect

Imperfect CEO Ben Simon noticed a lot of campus food going to waste while attending the University of Maryland. To solve this problem, he founded the Food Recovery Network (FRN), a non-profit dedicated to preventing waste on college campuses. Simon met co-founder Ben Chesler during his work for FRN, and together they were introduced to Ron Clark, who had spent decades working in the produce supply world, most recently with the California Association of Food Banks and the Farm to Family program.

The trio founded Imperfect in August 2015 to make an impact on the amount of produce that goes to waste every year by sourcing ugly produce directly from the farms and delivering it at a discount to customer’s homes. The delivery service is available in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle.

About Jennifer Liu

Despite the rain, Jennifer loves Seattle and is a rare native. From the gorgeous summer weather to the drizzle the other 9 months, this may be her forever home. She graduated from the University of Washington and has a master's degree in counseling psychology. She loves to travel, volunteer, and host themed dinner parties. You can find her eating, hiking, hanging out with her awesome dog, or napping. Ice cream, burgers, and sushi are some of her favorite things.
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