Countdown has launched an initiative to help reduce the amount of fresh produce that goes to waste every year.*
To do this, the retailer has launched a sub-brand called ‘The odd bunch’, carrying fruits and vegetables that would normally be considered too ugly to be sold in stores.
Supermarket retailers throughout the world have traditionally been very selective when it comes to fresh produce, stocking only fruits and vegetables that meet strict aesthetic standards.
But while apples and tomatoes are always perfectly round on store shelves, this is, of course, not how they grow in the real world. Fruits and vegetables quite often come out misshapen, appearing a little grotesque when placed next to their perfect counterparts in the store. And the problem is that the vast majority of this otherwise good food ends up going to landfill, contributing to the millions of dollars lost to food waste every year.
What makes this so ludicrous is the fact that there’s no difference in taste between a misshapen fruit and that which fits within the aesthetic guidelines. The difference lies only in the perception of the shopper, which has largely been informed by the fruits and vegetables sold in stores.
Countdown isn’t alone in looking to challenge this perception. Two years ago, French supermarket chain Intermache launched celebrating the ‘Inglorious fruits and vegetables’, usually destined for the landfill.
More recently, France has also taken legislative steps against food waste, requiring supermarkets to donate anything that is unsold.
Asked by Stuff journalist Susan Edmunds whether such an approach was necessary here in New Zealand, Paul Evans, chief executive of WasteMINZ said the local situation differed from that in France.
“Supermarkets do play an important role in minimising food waste, but realistically they are a fairly small amount of the total food waste generated. It’s actually households that generate the vast majority of food waste,” he said at the time.
Countdown has taken active steps to reduce food wastage in recent years, such as striking partnerships with a number of food bank organisations (in 2015, Countdown donated around $3.5 million worth of food to these partners).
According to its website, the retailer has since 2006 reduced waste to the landfill by 43 percent, despite increasing its selling space by 37 percent.
While a sign of progress, this still leaves plenty of good stuff for the nation’s part-time dumpster divers to enjoy.
*Correction: StopPress originally stated that the initiative was launched in collaboration with not-for-profit Love Food, Hate Waste. It was, in fact, launched by Countdown, independently.