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Breaking Down Ugly Produce

Breaking Down Ugly Produce

| Sep 2020

What is ugly produce? 

The shot: It’s the perfectly good fruits and vegetables that are deemed too cosmetically imperfect to be sold in grocery stores - a carrot with arms, an orange with a lump, a “V” shaped strawberry, a twisted zucchini, you get the idea.  


The squeeze: Discoloration, non-traditional shape, scarring and size are some of the characteristics of ugly produce that doesn’t get purchased. Additionally, sometimes the produce isn’t “ugly” at all, but merely unwanted due to a farming surplus or food trends changing buying behavior. 


Why does ugly produce matter? 

The shot: Solving the problem of wasted ugly produce is solving a piece in the overall food waste puzzle. 


The squeeze: According to our partners at Full Harvest, roughly 20 billion pounds of cosmetically imperfect or unharvested foods are wasted each year. The USDA also notes that by wasting food we’re also wasting land, waste, labor and other resources that were used to produce, process, store and dispose of discarded food.  

Man harvesting crops in a field

What happens to ugly produce? 

The shot: If farmers can’t sell it (otherwise said, no one is willing to buy it) it is often thrown away. However, due to the attention gained around ugly produce, farmers are finding more channels for distribution. 


The squeeze: The ability for farmers to sell ugly produces varies greatly on what type of producer the farmer is. When produce goes unsold by farmers they try their best to make use of it for feed if they have animals, but otherwise it likely goes to waste. In some cases farmers say it won’t even make financial sense to harvest the crop if they know it won’t be sold. 


On a consumer level, a few different start-ups have emerged that allow you to buy ugly produce boxes and other items at a fraction of grocery store costs. Companies like Imperfect Foods and Misfit Markets work with farmers so that any extra or unwanted food products don’t go to waste.


Additionally, some companies (like Vive!) are working with their farmers to utilize ugly produce or any produce surpluses that may occur. Who cares if it’s “ugly” when it gets juiced anyway! 

Ginger and turmeric root in the soil

Is it okay to be using unwanted ugly produce? 

The shot: Of course! 


The squeeze: Yes. There are still very high standards for ugly produce that make sure it’s safe for consumption and use. 

Why does Vive use ugly produce? 

The shot: Why not? 


The squeeze: In our products, you don’t see the produce where the shot came from so a bump or a bruise really doesn’t matter. We work extremely closely with our farmers to ensure that all of our ingredients meet our quality standards no matter what they look like. We care about reducing waste as much as possible and have intentionally sought out partners and farmers who are changing the industry in this way. By using ugly produce Vive has saved roughly 1 million pounds of produce, 34,000,000 gallons of water and avoided 200,000+ kg of Co2 emissions. Ultimately, by using produce that is not perfect enough to be sold in a grocery store, we are able to make a huge environmental impact. Plus, it all looks the same once it’s pressed!

Ginger root being processed