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“Naturally Imperfect” Produce Proves a Big Hit for Canadian Supermarket Chain

People generally tend to pick out the best looking fruits and vegetables when shopping for produce, but Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws is tempting customers with misshapen, blemished produce instead, by pricing them 30 percent lower than normal-looking ones.

A trial run of the ugly food line, named ‘Naturally Imperfect’, began in March last year with only apples and potatoes to choose from. Consumer demand has been so huge that Loblaws is now going to introduce more unsightly vegetable and fruit options like peppers, onions, and mushrooms. The line is available at other stores as well, including Real Canadian Superstore, Zehrs, and Your Independent Grocer.

All the produce that will be sold through Naturally Imperfect would otherwise have been used in juices, sauces, or soups, or would have not been harvested at all. Senior Loblaw director Dan Branson explained last year that this sort of program was a win-win arrangement for both food producers who would otherwise have to let substandard harvest go to waste, and consumers who could afford fresh produce at regular prices. And he was right, given how popular the line has become.

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Photo: Loblaws

“It really went well above and beyond what our expectation was,” Branson said last week, speaking to CBC News. “I think it really spoke to the fact that Canadians are out there really looking for some options.”

“When it comes to produce, Canadians know that beauty is more than skin deep,” added Loblaw Senior Vice President Ian Gordon. “Our customers recognize that they get the same flavor and nutritional benefits in spite of appearances. The positive response to our initial offering of apples and potatoes demonstrated the opportunity to expand the Naturally Imperfect line and offer more selection at a greater price to Canadian families.”

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Photo: VanCity Buzz

“If you were to grow produce in your backyard there’s a lot that would grow that wouldn’t look as pretty as what you would see in a grocery store,” said Branson. “And mother nature doesn’t grow everything perfectly. I’d like to think if somebody were to take a No Name Naturally Imperfect apple and put it right beside a No. 1 apple and closed their eyes and eat it, there would be no difference.”

Examples of produce sold under the Naturally Imperfect brand include apples that might have only 50 to 60 per cent color, with the rest of the fruit a lighter shade of green, or specimens that might have some scarring, smaller potatoes that don’t fit within the size range supermarkets usually require and deformed carrots.

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Photo: Intermarché

In 2014, French supermarket Intermarché launched a similar program called Inglorious Fruits and vegetables, in an attempt to combat food waste.

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