Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 October 2019

Nothing strange with odd looking vegetables

Misshapen vegetables will soon hit the shelves at Spinneys, which is launching the I Am Imperfect initiative from the middle of next month in an effort to stop the waste of produce that goes untouched because of how it look.
To tempt customers, misshapen vegetables will be 20 per cent cheaper than regular stocks. Pawan Singh / The National
To tempt customers, misshapen vegetables will be 20 per cent cheaper than regular stocks. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI// Would you buy a crooked cucumber, an odd-shaped tomato, or maybe a potato that looks just, well, plain weird?

Shoppers in Spinneys will soon have to figure this out for themselves after the supermarket chain announced plans to stock shelves with misshapen and unusual-looking vegetables.

The I Am Imperfect initiative, set to begin in mid-April, is part of efforts to reduce food waste by selling vegetables that would normally be thrown away based purely on their aesthetics.

To tempt customers, the strange vegetables will be cheaper than regular stocks by about 20 per cent.

“The vegetables that will be part of this line are from local producers that have not met the specifications based on shape, size and colour,” said Martin Jorge Aguirre, Spinneys’ commercial manager for fresh produce.

“In the past, these were wasted or sold to other supermarkets, but now customers will have a selection, conventional and organic, to chose from.

“They still meet the key requirements of food safety, taste and nutritional value but will be sold at around 20 per less than our other produce,” said Mr Aguirre.

The number and selection of vegetables is expected to vary from season to season, but will include staples such as cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum, egg plants and potatoes.

The supermarket will trial the initiative over the summer to gauge interest. No other supermarkets have, as yet, announced similar schemes.

Last year, France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unwanted food. Instead, they must now donate to charities or food banks.

The wide-ranging law prevents good-quality food approaching its best-before date to be binned and supermarkets can no longer spoil food to prevent people rummaging in bins.

In January, the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the UAE Food Bank that aims to gather unwanted food from supermarkets, hotels and restaurants and put it to good use.

The idea of shelves packed with misshapen produce been given a cautious welcome by shoppers.

Amanda Bullard, 35, from the UK, said the cheaper prices will attract people.

“A lot of people, myself included, have been conditioned to expect perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables so it might be a tough sell at the start,” she said.

“I don’t think I would be too keen on these types of vegetables but if they are cheaper than the usual I would definitely consider them.”

Sara Almousa said price was the most important issue.

“With the cost of living getting so high in Dubai I don’t think you can be snobbish about what shape a vegetable is,” said the 34-year-old from Lebanon.

“If it’s better value than the usual price then I would always go for that option.

“At the end of the day, vegetables are supposed to be eaten and once they have been chopped up and cooked their original shape is totally irrelevant.”

However, she admitted her two children would be a little more fussy.

“It’s already difficult enough getting them to eat normal shaped vegetables to it’s going to be a challenge to get them to switch to misshapen ones,” she said.

Carli Smith, 30, from Ireland, was unsure if she would buy “ugly vegetables”.

“At the back of my mind there is always that nagging doubt that there might be something wrong with these types of vegetables,” she said.

“When you’re surrounded by perfectly shaped vegetables and fruits every time you shop your expectations get set to a particular look and anything that’s different looks out of place.

“If these type of vegetables are organic and cheaper then I would definitely get them.”

Mohammed El Fouad, 41, from Egypt, would like to see a wider selection made available.

“If they only have a small selection then I’m not sure how many people will switch,” he said.

“I prefer the convenience of quickly checking the normal vegetables I want and picking up the ones I like.

“The problem with misshapen vegetables is that often they are smaller so you’ll have to get more and if there isn’t enough choice or quantity people will just go back to their usual habits.”


Updated: February 28, 2017 04:00 AM