Others have tried – and failed – to sell imperfect products.
In 2016, Whole Foods Market, Walmart, HyVee, and Associated Food Stores, among others, began selling some deformed fruits and vegetables. Many retailers have created displays in their product sections that explain why the selections are less than photo-ready and the prices are so good. A Harris poll that year found that 62 percent of people surveyed said they would be somewhat open to eating “ugly production“It tasted the same as the undistorted products.
But after that first wave of enthusiasm, Grocery began to lose interest. This is because after spending years marketing perfect-looking products, re-educating consumers has failed to pay off, industry watchers say.
Soon, almost all markets threw in the towel or found other ways to take advantage of tarnished products. Whole Foods Market, for example, uses individual-looking products in prepared foods and juice stations.
However, many consumers – 58 percent, in a survey conducted in 2021 – continued to say that they would choose imperfect products if they were offered at a discount.
Enter the online sellers, who have taken where the grocers left off. While each outlet makes deformed fruits and vegetables the centerpiece of their offerings, they differ somewhat. Perfectly Imperfect, one of the smaller players, for example, lets customers specify the size, frequency, and contents of their order, allowing them to choose boxes with names like Soup Lovers, Organic Mix, and Salad Bar. At Hungry Harvest, shoppers can choose a curated harvest box of traditional or organic produce or customize their own.
Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods both source their products from farmers who grow both traditional and organic fruits and vegetables. Misfits works with approximately 100 produce growers throughout the year. Imperfect Foods doesn’t separate food growers specifically, but it has a list of 1,200 growers, producers, and food suppliers across the country.
How does it stack up? To find out, I compared offerings from Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods, both of which deliver in the Brooklyn, New York neighborhood, with the local Stop & Shop supermarket.