Ugly fruit and veg can be beautiful

The move to stock ‘almost perfect’ fruit and vegetables has for many years been an obsession in supermarkets abroad.

Consumers have come to expect it and retailers merely pass the message on to their suppliers. The latter have responded with improved grading standards and new and better varieties.

For a while, EU bureaucrats also jumped on the bandwagon and promulgated strict regulations for the size and shape of many fruits and vegetables. These demands reached an apex of stupidity with the passing of a regulation that bananas had to be free of malformation and “abnormal curvature”.

This stipulation was ridiculed in the UK’s popular press and it wasn’t too long before this and similar laws were quietly dropped by the legislators in Brussels. One of the obvious objections to them was the unnecessary wastage that resulted.

Nonetheless, the debate is far from over, and many consumers and stockists still put far too much store on the appearance of fruit and vegetables. What a pity that no one has informed Mother Nature about this and demanded that she grow only perfect fruit and veggies.

It’s good news then, that there now appears to be a change in attitude amongst certain retailers and consumers.

Motivated perhaps by the high cost of food and the recent revelation that vast quantities of food are wasted worldwide, some people are buying misshapen (ugly, if you wish) fruit and vegetables, long discarded by zealous packers.

A pioneer of this movement has been French retailer Intermarché. They have started promoting these products separately as ‘Inglorious Fruit and Vegetables’. With the strong consumer movement for all things ‘green’ and natural, it didn’t take long for this concept to capture consumer hearts – or their money, especially as the produce was offered at a discount.

Similar campaigns have recently begun in South Africa, although on a smaller scale. It won’t be long before the concept becomes widespread, I’m sure.

I love the idea because it shows that retailers have accepted that we cannot grow fruit and vegetables the way tins of bully beef are produced in a factory. Of course, striving for high standards is a good thing, but looks are by no means the only factor by which to judge a product.