When shopping for produce, it’s only natural to pick up what looks the best. We assume the shiny red apples will be crunchier than the bruised ones, the smooth peppers will taste better in your salads than the mushy ones. Those oddly shaped carrots are an unspoken, yet firmly understood, hard pass.
About one-fifth of produce is trashed simply because it’s unattractive.. And while food waste experts have said tossing perfectly edible produce is a global issue, Americans are particularly bad offenders. Some 60 million tons, or $160 billion worth, of fruits and vegetables gets thrown away in the United States every year, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American family of four throws out an annual $1,600 worth of produce.
But just because produce is ugly doesn’t mean it’s not edible. Misfits Market, in fact, wants you to eat it. The Philadelphia-based startup, which launched over the summer, sells subscription boxes of ugly produce, which the company buys directly from farms. Misfits’ ugly fruits and veggies sell for 30 to 50 percent less than their retail prices.
It’s a tricky business, of course, selling unsellable produce. Plenty of unattractive produce gets donated to food banks and soup kitchens, so it might feel wrong to buy fruits and vegetables that could otherwise end up in the hands of the needy.
Abhi Ramesh, the CEO of Misfits Market, explained how his company is providing a new line of income for farmers who don’t have the infrastructure to donate their ugly produce, and how he sees Misfits as playing a major role in helping decrease global food waste. This interview has been edited and condensed.