Whole Foods to start selling ‘imperfect’ fruits and vegetables

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Why we should stop being so shallow towards our food’s appearance

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 17, 2016

First it was organics, now Whole Foods is aiming to make the buying and eating of “imperfect” fruits and vegetable as mainstream as drinking kombucha.

Approximately 20–40 per cent of all fruits and vegetables end up in the trash. According to Environmental Protection Agency, US consumers wasted 35 million pounds of food in 2012. There are a number of reasons why such a large quantity of food ends up in the garbage, and including the fact that supermarkets have a high standard for the produce they sell. So, like a model for a talent agent, the tomato in your supermarket must also go through an appearance assessment.

Now whether this experiment is going to work for Whole Foods and a number of other forward-thinking grocers is still up in the air. Consumers, especially consumers in developed countries, are quite fickle about what they buy. We work hard for our money, so why would we buy something of lower quality when we can have the better one for the same price?

Still, there is something heartwarming about finding a good home for these rejected fruits and vegetables. Like an orphanage for food, it’s good to know that Whole Foods is doing its part to change the superficial ideal that is ultimately harming our society. Buying “ugly” food is not a novelty, though. It’s not a freak show, it’s not for a one-time entertainment, it’s something we need to make habitual. That is where the challenge will be.

We must remember that in the end, it all just ends in the same place. Why does it matter how good an avocado looks before you mash it up into guacamole? Why does it matter how a carrot looks before you toss it in a stew? Sure, some fruit and vegetables—those you set on a platter for a house party, for example—need to look somewhat desirable, but in the end, why does it matter?

We are so shallow about fruit and vegetables, but when it comes to animals we are fine with them being unattractive. Beef, pork, and seafood are not as cute as the little potato, but many of us eat them all the same. As long as you can tell the difference between fresh and spoiled, it rarely matters how the ingredients look.

In fact, I believe we should start eliminating the idea of disgusting food from our society altogether. Our diets consist of many environmentally damaging productions. Acres of forestland are dedicated to cattle. Animals that were once in abundance, like species of salmon, are now being carefully rationed for fear of causing a greater imbalance. Yet, there is one species in the animal kingdom the Western world still finds grotesque: insects.

Like ugly fruits and vegetables, insects are often scorned for their pesky nature. We see them as many things, but nutritious is not one of them. However, many people in developing countries depend on them for survival daily.

Pushing for ugly foods to be sold is a small step, but there is a long way to go to create a sustainable world. If that is the goal, we need to change our opinions about imperfect fruits and vegetables—and soon our opinion about all things edible.

New Canadian Grocery Alerts App Brings Savings to the Palm of Your Hand

One dollar here, a couple of dollars there, and what was supposed to be an inexpensive trip to the grocery store ends up costing a small fortune.

It is not uncommon to hear about bargains, but taking advantage of them is a chore we have to schedule for. Most of us don’t have time to scour through the stack of flyers or click through online retail catalogues. What ends up happening is that we just show up at the store whenever we can with our little list and wing it.

Last month, Canadian startup Grocery Alerts launched a new app, Coupon Find Canada. The app supplies a database that allows user to search for items with a discount or spontaneously look up deals for stores they are already at.

“We want to keep it simple,” said Steven Zussino, founder of GroceryAlerts.ca. “We want to show all the different categories we have coupons for on the website; beverages, snacks. And then be able to show store coupons, so if you are at Save-On-Foods or Rexall or Bulk Barn or Shoppers Drug Mart, you can just click on the coupon and show it at the counter.”

Although digitized couponing is evolving, it is still suffering from some growing pains. The public still relies heavily on the printed material, because the virtual format is still so darn hard to read.

“I don’t mind reading books or magazines on mobile devices,” said Zussino, “but flyers you need to zoom in a lot, because they are so visual.”

That is why simplicity is the key for Zussino, who stripped back all the glitz and glamour of marketing and just stuck with the essential, which is to save you some money.

Grocery Alerts has been live since 2009 and has accumulated over 22,000 email subscribers and 120,000 readers each month. Providing coupons for stores and manufactures nationwide, Grocery Alert, with its new accessible app Coupon Find Canada are hoping to expand to a wider audience.

“Our audience tends to be mothers with large families,” explains Zussino. “Usually single people and younger people don’t use a lot of coupons. But I think things are changing with all those daily deals websites. It is interesting when people say they don’t use coupons, I always find good examples of things you buy on a daily bases that you can just print off and it is pretty easy to redeem. Four or five bucks doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up.”

Coupon Find Canada is currently offered for iOS at the app store and in the coming weeks it will be available at Google Play store and will be compatible with Blackberry and Androids smartphones.