Fusebox EPFL


Too many fuits and veggies are thrown away or never picked by farmers each year because they do not conform to standards for uniform size, color and appearance.

Too many fuits and veggies are thrown away or never picked by farmers each year because they do not conform to standards for uniform size, color and appearance. Unfortunately, this has led to production that looks great but is completely tasteless.

Having grown up in a family which cultivated a few plants domestically, I know that often the smallest and ugliest looking fruit is the most sweet, aromatic and juicy. Nowadays, the perfectly colored strawberries I sometimes buy at the store usually end up in the trash because they taste like rubber.

The problem is twofold - regulations still require some items to conform to uniformity standards and two - shoppers, as much as they say otherwise, still buy with their eyes and look for the best-looking fruit. 

While regulations have been relaxed, farmers could partner with stores and try to promote this type of produce into the marketplace. They could sell it under a different price and category - something like a "natural" or "exotic variety" type. The price may be lower, too - we all know shoppers love lower prices. Once customers discover the new taste, they will start buying.

One critical part of this plan is to allow buyers taste the fruit/vegetable of that kind near the product. Small bites can be cut and presented for shoppers to try. What do they have to loose - they get a lower price and a confirmation of the taste!

What do you think? Let me know your comments.

Celia HERGUETA Mar 16, 2014

Hi! I quite like your idea of trying to promote funny looking fuits and vegetables. There is not only a manual selection of the finest looking fuits in supermarkets (discarding the "bad" ones), but I think there are also automated processes when the fruit is picked and taking to packaging that also measure for specific size and weight. This definitely leads to a lot of good food thrown away that could be used in other fashion.

If its a matter of regulation, it would be needed a change in that to be able to sell these discarded fuits in a secondary market, even for a cheaper price. But how about using these not good looking fuits, but also very tasty, to use to produce natural jams, backery or other types of dishes? I mean, to use this "discarded" fruits that are not good for public scrutiny to be directly distributed to producers?

Let me know your thoughts.

Hélène Gonnet Mar 16, 2014

http://www.coop.ch/pb/site/medien/node/77520950/Lde/index.html (in German or French)

Coop has alread sold vegetables or fruits that don't look nice to lower prices, like apricots damaged by hail

Nicolas Pierret Mar 17, 2014

That was a great campaign made by Coop. They even made a photo competition where people could share their most awkward vegetables: http://goo.gl/OIMjVk

This competition was a brilliant idea, because it made people look for these kind of vegetables instead of rejecting them!

And finally, I can advice you to look to this website, dedicated to these products:http://culinarymisfits.de/ (German)

Nicolás Meneses Mar 16, 2014

It is a very good idea what iBetka is suggesting and what Coop is doing. I think the true added-value would be to use the damaged fruits as co-products and sell them as ingredients for other products as Celia is suggesting.
How do we find a market for fruits & vegetables which are rejected by regulations?

Nicolas Pierret Mar 17, 2014

A lot of industrial processes need vegetables (tomato sauce, soups, ready-to-eat meals, etc.). And they don't care about the way vegetables look, because they won't reach the final consumer.

The question is what the proportion of misfit products in their process? Is there a way to increase it?

Celia HERGUETA Mar 17, 2014

I don't know much about these regulations, but if there are, I guess that it is at the origin (the farms) that do the first selection. If this is so, it would be advantageous to divide the fruit from the beginning to optimize the transport, instead of sending it to retailers to be then sent back:

  • Discarded Fruits to go directly to producers (such as jam makers or souces like Nicolas suggests). Partnerships could be made between farms and these producer. It would be worthwile to investigate the origin of the fruits and veggies of these producers, if they come from discarded specimens or good stardard ones.
  • "Good" fruits go directly to retailers for public selling.

"Bad" looking fruits are often found in BIO & organic stores, but those fuits and vegetables have to fulfill other kind of conditions, especially on the methods of growing, which would be other topic directly.

Elizabeta Laskova Mar 18, 2014

I think that Celia's idea is very feasible and should be easily evaluated. If you can make a list of producers of processed fruit and vegetables and contact their procurement unit, it should be easy to figure out if and how much they would be willing to pay for such produce.

As long as it exceeds the additional cost of collecting and selling the fruit plus an acceptable profit margin, the idea can be pursued.

View all replies (3)

Emilio Lenoir Mar 16, 2014

I think a nice sentence to resume this idea is to decrease amount of fruits and vegetables thrown away by eliminating the aestethic stereotype we have, which is often very kitsch, and coming back to th real raw power of fruits with a corresponding propaganda.


Nicolas Pierret Mar 17, 2014

Some farmers invite consumers directly to the farm, where they can pick themselves their food. Vegetables that are not looking great, that are damaged etc. are sold with a big discount. It turns otherwise wasted food into an additionnal income for farmers!

Nicolás Meneses Mar 18, 2014

It seems that everything could be solved from the beginning at the farmers location by implementing a good sorting system, so separating the product into different kind for the different markets. What do you think?

@Celia, most of the regulations are actually just own customer requirements.

Leila Ojjeh Mar 20, 2014

Status changed to INTERESTING
Buehler experts found this topic very interesting but how could innovate further and build a stronger business plan? What else could be explored to give a second life to "tasty but not great looking fruits & veggies"?

Cédric Liardet Mar 21, 2014

dining in the dark

for this concept, you need food to be tasty, not looking great :)

A very small business however....

david miki Mar 21, 2014

The best way to market these "non conforming" looking veggies/fruits would be to chefs and "Foodies" in the farmers markets. Start with this grass roots effort in order to create the demand and then work your way up to the general public. By going after this small segment of the market you don't have to spend too much to find them and you can hopefully start to build the market from there