Cosmetically challenged food gets scooped by frugal New Englanders

Hannaford’s and the aisle of misfit vegetables

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Monday, March 13, 2017 - 4:00am
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Brian Pellerin, assistant store manager at Hannaford’s Rockland stands beside a bin of Misfit vegetables. (Photos by Chris Wolf)

ROCKLAND – The United Nations estimates between 20 to 40 percent of produce harvested each year is thrown away because it does not meet sizing standards for store shelves. Shoppers look for aesthetically pleasing produce. Enter Hannaford's and a company called Robinson Fresh, out of Minnesota.

Let's face it, when we shop we want produce that is well-formed and free of marks or scars. Outside appearance does not affect the nutritional vale of food. Produce will be passed over by farmers and left in the field if they feel it does not have the appearance that will appeal to shoppers.

Robinson Fresh has started marketing a line of prepackaged produce called Misfits that is less cosmetically pleasing. By doing so, they are also aligning with USDA's goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.

Misfits produce is sold on average at a 30 percent discount. All products are of the same taste and quality of typical produce, but may have a little more character than other produce. Robinson Fresh is collaborating with a handful of select retailers who align with the goals of the program.

Hannaford's is one such company that is carrying Misfits. Hannaford's, based in Scarborough, began carrying the "cosmetically challenged," vegetables in its southern Maine stores and has now expanded the line to Rockland, Camden and Belfast stores.

Brian Pellerin, assistant store manager at Hannaford's Rockland, said his store began carrying the Misfits produce about two weeks ago.

"It started in the New York stores," he said. "They wanted to branch out to the East Coast and some of the coastal stores. There are 15 stores now that carry the Misfits."

Pellerin said the taste and quality of the vegetables are exactly the same.

"The only difference is they are misshapen," he said. "Sometimes you'll have a bag of Clementines where you'll have a large Clem in it and a bunch of small ones. Sometimes squash with scarring on the outside of it, but the quality is still all to our standards; nothing different just a better value price."

Pellerin said the Misfit vegetables are selling very well.

"There have been a couple of days where the bin has been just about empty," he said. "The product can change. Last week we had avocados, Clementines and lemons this week. Everything is selling very well."

Misfits afford about a 30 percent price savings to the customer. The Misfit sign informs you that about a billion pounds of produce goes unused each year. It might not be perfect on the outside, but you help reduce food waste every time you buy.