30 June 2020, 08:35 AM
  • Relaxed guidelines will also help support British farmers
Retailer to sell imperfect produce to help reduce food waste

Throughout lockdown, many Brits have admitted to throwing away less food, and now retailers are tapping into growing concerns over food waste by committing to sell more wonky veg.

Waitrose has announced it will be accepting produce of all shapes and sizes in an effort to ensure homegrown produce doesn’t go to waste, whilst also supporting local farmers.

The retailer has relaxed its size and shape guidelines for carrots, parsnips and asparagus. It means ‘ugly’ carrots and parsnips that would normally have gone into foodservice will now be made available for customers, whilst the size range for asparagus has been expanded to include sizes that would normally go into processing and catering. Trimming specifications have also been relaxed and finishing details removed to help suppliers maintain social distancing on production and packing lines.

Throughout lockdown, sales of core vegetables have seen a 31% increase compared to 2019, with the sales of garlic up 47% on last year and even more unusual produce such as gourds also up 51%. It’s perhaps unsurprising given the number of Brits who have been cooking more from scratch since lockdown began, with many experimenting with new ingredients and actively trying to reduce their food waste at home.

Amanda Frisby, fresh produce technical manager at Waitrose, said: “We are committed to supporting our farmers through a really difficult time. By changing and being flexible with our specifications it has meant we have minimised wastage of fantastic British produce and it has allowed us to take on even more veg for our customers. We keep reviewing specific specifications on all of our fresh produce lines to make sure we are getting the maximum crop available and working with our farmers to figure out new ways of working in these challenging circumstances.”

It’s part of ongoing efforts by the retailer to help manage food waste. However, there are increasing opportunities for retailers post-lockdown to support British farmers, offer more produce to customers and reduce food waste through offering imperfect produce, particularly given consumer’s increasing concern for sustainability. Independent retailers could consider doing the same in an effort to tap into these trends and cater to consumer’s changing needs whilst helping local farms shift produce that’s still unable to the foodservice and catering industries.

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