Asda puts UK’s first supermarket wonky veg box on sale

The UK's first supermarket 'wonky vegetable' box went on sale on Friday, containing enough ugly potatoes and knobbly carrots to feed a family of four for an entire week for just £3.50.

The Asda box is filled with in-season winter vegetables and salad ingredients at a price that is 30% cheaper than standard lines.

The vegetables – currently carrots, potatoes, peppers, cucumber, cabbage, leeks, parsnips and onions – have been selected from farmers’ crops because they are misshapen, have growth cracks or are smaller or larger than average. The produce is washed but the discount reflects the fact that customers may need to spend extra time peeling it or they might not be able to use the whole vegetable.

Asda introduced imperfect fruit and vegetables into its stores in January 2015 as part of its permanent range in a move championed by chef Jamie Oliver and farmer Jimmy Doherty. During the latest series of the show, Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast on Channel 4, the pair revisited Asda’s offering and challenged it to extend the range even further.

The environmental and financial impact of food waste has came to the fore recently with chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s TV series, Hugh’s War on Waste, which has blamed supermarkets for much of the food thrown away.

Just over 1% of food wasted in the UK – 200,000 tonnes – comes from stores,according to figures from the government-backed Waste Resources Action Programme (Wrap). Of the estimated 15m tonnes of food thrown away in the UK each year, more than half is disposed of in people’s homes.

In December supermarket chain Morrisons reported brisk sales of potatoes and carrots from a trial of sales of so-called “wonky” seasonal vegetables in stores in Yorkshire and the north-east. Its earlier attempt to sell wonky courgettes was branded “pathetic” by Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Sainsbury’s has also relaxed its rules on the appearance of fresh produce, while Tesco has experimented with putting misshapen fruit and vegetables on offer to encourage people to buy them.

Asda says it has worked hard across its agricultural supply chain to reduce waste, both by relaxing specifications to get more produce on to its shelves, and ensuring that those that fail to meet specifications go into further processed products, such as ready meals or in its wonky produce range.

The new vegetable box, the bulk of which is sourced from Watts Farms, will go on sale in 128 stores across the UK. 

“Our shoppers absolutely love wonky fruit and veg and we’ve seen sales steadily increase over the last year,” said Ian Harrison, Asda’s technical produce director.”

The degree of wonkiness will depend on the product. Currently, 15% of Asda’s potatoes do not meet specifications because they are too big, too small or blemished and 15% of parsnips don’t make the shelf because they’re oddly shaped or have superficial defects. Similarly, 10% of onions that are the wrong shape and size, and 8% of carrots grown with knobbles and bobbles are left with growers.

Rebecca Smithers

This article first appeared on the Guardian

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