Biz Beat

Eat ugly. New grocery delivery service offers imperfect fruits, veggies in Modesto

See how eating ugly works with new Imperfect Produce service

Imperfect Produce, a grocery subscription service, sells "ugly" fruits and vegetables that cosmetically might not be sold in a grocery store. The delivery service expands to Modesto, Merced and Fresno.
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Imperfect Produce, a grocery subscription service, sells "ugly" fruits and vegetables that cosmetically might not be sold in a grocery store. The delivery service expands to Modesto, Merced and Fresno.

A new grocery delivery service coming to Modesto and Merced wants you to eat ugly.

No, they’re not talking about that microwaved burrito you bought at a gas station and scarfed down at 2 a.m. This ugly food is all about imperfect fruits and veggies, which might not otherwise be sold in grocery stores for cosmetic reasons.

The service expands to Modesto, Merced and Fresno on Monday, Aug. 5, and representatives from the San Francisco startup said they hope it provides an affordable alternative to traditional groceries while also tackling the prevalent issue of food waste.

“(T)he team is excited to extend its reach across a wider area to further the impact on national food waste as well as provide healthy, affordable food to like-minded folks in the Modesto area,” said Emily Farrar, a spokewoman for Imperfect Produce. “California is such a wonderful source of some of our nation’s best produce. We’re stoked to connect folks in the Modesto community with our top-notch farm partners in the area.”

The launch brings the “ugly” produce trend to the Central Valley. Heralded by companies like Imperfect Produce, Hungry Harvest and Misfits Market, the services promise improvements to the food ecosystem. They do so by taking slightly bruised, misshapen and surplus fruits and vegetables that might otherwise rot in the fields or be thrown away and selling them to consumers.

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FILE - This Nov. 13, 2018 file photo shows various fruit and vegetables at Imperfect Produce in Severn, Md. The company delivers produce that have been rejected by grocery stores for not fitting cosmetic standards. Joshua McKerrow Associated Press

According to Imperfect Produce, some 20 percent of all fruits and vegetables grown in the United States do not meet the cosmetic standards of grocery stores. As a result, they say, roughly 20 billion pounds of produce go unharvested or unsold each year.

Since its debut in 2015, the company said, it has recovered 40 million pounds of produce — including 32 million pounds just last year. This year, the service is on track to recover some 50 million pounds of fruits and vegetables.

But how much does it all cost? A weekly or every-other-week subscription runs from $11 to $13 for a small box (about 7 to 9 pounds of produce to feed one to two people) up to $25 to $27 for an extra-large box (about 23 to 25 pounds serving six to 10 people). You can customize what comes in your box and opt for all-organic produce for additional fees. A delivery charge of $4.99 is added to each order. Also, Farrar said, while there is no monthly option currently, customers are able to cancel orders they don’t want.

Imperfect Produce recently added some shelf-stable products to its order menu, including grocery items like lentils, flour, quinoa, bread and more.

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The food subscription service Imperfect Produce is expanding to Modesto and Merced. The service delivers “ugly” fruits and vegetables, produce that cosmetically can’t be sold in grocery stores, etc. Imperfect Produce

Farrar said the new Central Valley markets will source the produce from Porterville-based Homegrown Organics, particularly its Three Sisters Organics growers, Fruit World, Bee Sweet, Kings River and Wawona.

The company also said it works with local food banks in each state it operates, including the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services locally, and has donated over 2.2 million pounds of produce to close to 100 nonprofit partners and food banks.

Imperfect Produce will only be available in Modesto and Merced city limits, but continues to expand. So look for more ugly food coming your way, possibly soon.

For more information on Imperfect Produce, visit its website www.imperfectproduce.com.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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