German retailers selling flawed vegetables at lower price

Posted Oct 13, 2013 by Anne Sewell
Under the brand "nobody is perfect", certain European retailers are now starting to sell "ugly" fruit and vegetables, that would normally be thrown away or used as animal feed. The produce is sold at a lower price, but the taste is exactly the same.
Jeremy Keith
German retailer, Edeka, started the trend in that country by selling flawed vegetable items in some of their countrywide stores. Now other retailers want to get in on the action.
Waz (German language) reported that Gernot Kasel, spokesman for Edeka, explained that normally crooked or deformed vegetables would be thrown away or fed to livestock, because consumers "buy with their eyes too, and have gotten used to certain norms" of shape and color.
However, the items sold under the brand "nobody is perfect", including apples, potatoes and carrots, sell cheaper than their "normal" counterparts. And let's face it, they taste exactly the same at the end of the day.
A Swiss market-leader, Coop, has also started a range called "Unique" in August this year, which is on offer in around a third of its stores.
Coop spokeswoman, Nadja Ruch said that these days, three-legged carrots are "vying for buyers' favors," explaining that they are priced around 6o percent cheaper than the "first-class" carrots.
"There would be scope for selling many more of these products, as demand has certainly exceeded our hopes", said Ruch.
N24 (in German) reported that last week, German retailer Rewe got into the action with its own "Wunderling" range in its stores in Austria. The name is a combination of the words 'anomaly' and 'miracle'.
For retailer Rewe entering that market "isn't a decision based on economic considerations," saying that should the Austrian experiment be a success it will be extended to other markets, as this would be "a concrete step against the food waste culture."
It turns out that the British retail giant, Sainsbury's, started the whole trend last year. After suffering adverse weather conditions, causing a dramatic drop in the country's fruit and vegetables production, and a high rate of misshapen and damaged goods, it was the best way to go.
The retail company is committed to buying all output, whether ugly or not, and the produce founds its way either onto the shelves of their supermarkets, or was utilized in ready-made meals or pastries.
Figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization show that over a billion tons of food is thrown away every year, which costs the world around 750 billion dollars. Anti-poverty and environment groups have been pointing this out for some time.
Now it seems that 2014 has been labeled the "European Year against Food Waste" by the European Union.
What Edeka, Coop and the other companies have highlighted could clearly become a more permanent trend. It doesn't matter if the produce is ugly. The products "are optimal in quality and taste", says Rewe.
Growers are also welcoming the new market for their flawed fruits and vegetables. Especially if the arrival of the weird-looking potatoes, or curved zucchinis on supermarket shelves "raises real questions about nature" for the consumers.
However, apparently farmers still wish to hold to their strict norms in dealing with retailers, saying that these make sense, for instance when setting prices.
In the end there is a market for both the "perfect" produce and the flawed (at a lower cost), which is so much better than just throwing it away.