A Glorious Fight Against Food Waste: Supermarket Chain Celebrates “Ugly” Produce — With Stunning Results

By Carolanne Wright

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

During my college years in San Francisco, I had an amazing discovery: The Grocery Outlet. As a student living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, the store was a godsend. It sold packaged, refrigerated and frozen food that was either near its expiry date or had expired, at a deep discount. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be able to keep my food budget to around $45 a week. However, I wasn’t really aware of the broader implications.

Here was an entire store full of food that otherwise would have gone into a dumpster, soon to be carted off to the landfill where it would rot and release environmentally harmful methane. Not to mention, trashed food is the ultimate in waste since other valuable resources are used to grow it, like fresh water and fuel. Little did I know twenty years ago that I was part of an anti-waste revolution that is still going strong today. In fact, the movement has spread across the globe like wildfire in recent years.

The latest clever and highly creative campaign to combat food waste is found in none other than France. Leave it to the French to bring a sense of art and sophisticated humor into keeping “ugly” produce out of the trash bin — and instead squarely nestled in your grocery cart, ready for checkout.

Transforming the Ugly and Unwanted into the Coveted

“Intermarché launched “the inglorious fruits and vegetables”… campaign to rehabilitate the imperfect fruits and vegetables by celebrating the beauty of the ridiculous potato, the hideous orange or the failed lemon.” ~ EcoSnippets

Worldwide, 300 million tons of fruits and vegetables are thrown away each year — much of which for nothing more than their less than perfect appearance. Intermarché, the third largest supermarket chain in France, decided to tackle such outrageous waste by putting a fresh spin on how we view “ugly” produce.

Challenging the “business-as-usual” model, Intermarché decided to buck the system and bought produce from growers that they normally would have thrown away, because it wasn’t pretty enough. If the produce did happen to make it into the store, it was generally shunned by consumers and eventually disgarded by the supermarket.

Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

How did Intermarché celebrate these “inglorious fruits and vegetables”? By creating a special print, radio and film campaign designed to exclusively promote the wayward produce. Launching in-store branding and establishing a dedicated aisle. Providing special labelling along with a designated, separate spot on the sales receipt. And discounting “ugly” produce cost by 30 percent compared to its more aesthetically pleasing brethren. Stores also offered samples to hesitant shoppers, tastefully proving that the produce is no different from standard fruits and vegetables.

It worked. Sales skyrocketed and Intermarché expanded the program by offering a special line of “inglorious” vegetable soups and fruit juices for purchase.

But then they ran into a snag. The “ugly” produce quickly sold out. On average, each store sold 1.2 tons during the first two days of the launch. Intermarché also experienced a 24 percent increase in foot traffic. As it turns out, the campaign generated massive social media attention, with a reach of over 13 million people in just one month.

Moreover, there was a big impact in the media. Journalists jumped on board, suggesting every supermarket should be doing the same as Intermarché. Incredibly, 21 million people overall were introduced to the campaign via media sources.

“Why was the campaign so shareable? Not only was the rebranding campaign socially and environmentally responsible, it was also comedic and visually eye-catching. The inglorious fruits and vegetables were portrayed in a way that is reminiscent of caricature portraits of movie characters. Each edible character was given its own offbeat name, personality, and tagline. “A Grotesque Apple”, “The Ugly Carrot”, and “The Failed Lemon” were uniquely shaped, but were under the spotlight and showcased as if they were flawless celebrities. The Inglorious campaign was the perfect combination of funny, witty, unique, and socially responsible that caused it to be spread virally.” [source]

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About the author:

Carolanne WrightCarolanne Wright enthusiastically believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, Carolanne has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of organic living, gratefulness and joyful orientation for over 13 years.

Through her website Thrive-Living.net, she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people from around the world who share a similar vision. You can also follow Carolanne on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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  • RoHa

    Nothing new.

    Here in Australia, for quite a long time now, Woolworths supermarket has been offering bulk packs of ugly fruit and veg at a lower price than the pretty stuff. I often buy those packs.