Beauty in the Eye of Ugly Produce

We have looked at millennials as the key trend setters in the marketplace for a while now. The way that they purchase produce and continue to do so affects the marketing strategies that companies must put in place. After learning how much of our food, specifically produce, goes to waste, consumers created a movement known as the Ugly Produce Movement. This movement has created space for new circumstances in the produce industry and allows companies to utilize produce that previously has been wasted or donated. There are some consumers who are already changing their produce buying habits, and there is plenty of potential to convert other consumers mindsets when it comes to produce.

The “Ugly Produce” Movement is somewhat controversial and according to a recent article in Study Breaks, people opposed to the commercialization of ugly produce have realized that “rejected food items are now being sold to millennials in trendy subscription boxes, rather than being shipped to food banks,” that would have be given to those less fortunate.

Whether it is a positive or negative produce trend, there is no denying that the movement creates many opportunities for the produce industry. Companies that have already created their own ugly produce subscription boxes such as Imperfect Produce or Hungry Harvest have successfully targeted those that want the convenience of home delivery along with the competitive prices of brick and mortar grocery stores.

Companies that have launched subscription boxes currently cater to people in select major cities throughout the U.S. but do not yet have the capabilities or resources to deliver in every major city or state. This is good news for grocery stores because there are many locations and markets that have not yet been penetrated. Ugly produce is a niche market that could open opportunities for targeting consumers that want to make a positive impact in the world.

Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest used statistics to educate potential customers about why they should help eliminate food waste. Grocery stores can begin marketing efforts by taking a similar approach and changing their messaging style. By promoting ugly produce as beneficial to the Earth, consumers will become socially conscious and this type of shopping habit can become the norm. Displaying signs and educating customers about how much produce is wasted every year can promote purchasing ugly produce as a solution to combat the waste problem. Hy-Vee, a supermarket chain in the Midwest, sells ugly produce that comes from the company “Misfits.” Hy-Vee has found success in ugly produce thanks to their displays and signage that show statistics of food waste. In October 2018, Kroger launched their own ugly produce offering called “Peculiar Picks” which also benefits from informative displays.

Another marketing strategy that grocery stores ought to utilize is offering ugly produce at lower prices. This will not only target the eco-friendly consumer but will give cost-conscious consumers a reason to purchase as well. Hopefully the promotion of lower cost fruits and vegetables will make buying ugly produce a mainstream and effortless process.

Lastly, grocery stores need to focus their marketing efforts on imperfect positivity. According to Andria Cheng, from Forbes, consumers need to have their self-esteem boosted in-store because shopping for ugly produce can create feelings and associations of self-worthlessness. She recommends putting up “positive signs like ‘You are Fantastic! Pick Ugly Produce!’” due to studies that have been done at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

Making ugly produce a part of “normal” grocery store offerings will help consumers save money and allow them purchasing options that make them feel like they are helping the Earth be more sustainable. There are great options ahead for integrating ugly produce and it only makes sense for the produce industry to get behind the movement.


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