By Kristen Birch
My dad has been attempting to grow a pot-based veggie garden for the past few years. Every once in a while, my mom will walk into the kitchen to prepare dinner and be greeted by a few sad-looking vegetables slumping on the counter. She generously will add them to her curry or stew, together with their lumpy swellings and disfigured parts, and we will eat the meal without the knowledge that some of the ingredients had been imperfect to begin with.
Intermarché, the third largest commercial French supermarket chain, had the same idea when they began the campaign Les fruits et légumes moches or “Inglorious fruit and vegetables” earlier this year. Enter the disfigured eggplant, the failed lemon, the ugly carrot, the ridiculous potato, the hideous orange, the unfortunate clementine, and the grotesque apple. French advertising agency Marcel Worldwide sold the campaign through print, poster, radio and a video that already has over four million views.
The campaign tackles the idea that we are meant to eat five fruit and vegetables per day, a hefty expense for a big family, and the fact that fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
The European Parliament has called for non-legislative action to halve food waste by 2025. EU Commission figures show that consumers are wasting 89 million tonnes of food every year, which is equivalent to 179 kgs per person.
Member of European Parliament (MEP), Liam Aylward said, “It is outrageous that almost 90 million tonnes of perfectly fine food gets wasted each year while an estimated 79 million people in the EU live beneath the poverty line and around 16 million depend on food aid from charitable institutions.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.
The EU suggested implementing new awareness campaigns to inform the public on food wastage, calling 2014 the “European year against food waste”. But Intermarché took matters into their own hands.
They decided to buy the products that their suppliers usually throw away and sell them in stores for 30% cheaper than the perfectly-shaped fruit and veg. In order to encourage customers to regard this produce as just as tasty, despite their abnormalities, the stores produced Inglorious vegetable soups and Inglorious freshly-squeezed fruit juices.
The campaign proved that the only difference between these kinds of fruit and vegetables was the look and not the taste. And, of course, the cheaper price.
The supermarket’s only problem now was being sold out.
The success was immediate, having 1.2 tons average sale per store during the first two days and a 24% overall store traffic increase.
These chain stores have led the way for other supermarkets and the rest of the world, but South Africa has not caught on just yet.
Thomas Stone, manager of Country Fresh Foods in Grahamstown, says that South African producers need to change their mindset.
“We are not offered this type of fruit and veg from our growers and customers are picky,” he said. “If we could also have the two separate sections with the one being marked down, that would be good.”
FAO predicts that roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year (approximately 1.3 billion tonnes) gets lost or wasted. Food waste amounts to roughly $680 billion in industrialised countries and $310 billion in developing countries.
This is a rampant and senseless waste, considering that 870 million people in the world could be fed if even one-fourth of the food globally lost or wasted, was saved.
Hats off to Intermarché for their campaign and hopefully this is just the beginning.