Every year millions of kilos of fresh vegetables are thrown away or used as animal feed if they are classified as an irregular shape or size. This week sees Tesco become the first Irish retailer to announce a commitment to working with growers to purchase more of this crop. Named ‘Wonky Veg’, Tesco will trial the offering with carrots and mushrooms which will sold in specially marked ‘Wonky Veg’ packs giving shoppers the opportunity to choose which vegetables they would like to purchase. We are delighted to see this move as it is a start of larger retailers reducing food waste.
Tesco Ireland buys nearly five million packs of Irish carrots every year sourced from two growers; Leo Dunne in Laois and John Dockrell’s in Wexford. Closed cup mushrooms are sourced from Codd Mushrooms in Carlow and Kerrigan’s Mushrooms in Meath. Growers have welcomed the move by Tesco to introduce misshapen produce rather than rejecting them on the grounds of appearance due to irregular shape or size.
One of the 50 Irish suppliers that showcased food products at the Tesco tent at the 2014 National Ploughing Championships, mushroom grower Leslie Codd said “Every year Irish vegetable growers discard millions of kilos of produce on the grounds of appearance. The reason for this is that customers have become used to buying perfect looking vegetables. The reality of the situation is that the 5-10% of vegetables that never make it to the retail shelf are perfectly fine. They may look a little bit odd, or wonky, but they taste every bit as good as the perfect looking produce we are used to buying. If customers bought this wonky looking veg more, it would greatly reduce wastage at farm level.”
Tesco Ireland’s Fresh Buyer, Sinead McDonogh, added “These wonky veg mushrooms and carrots might not win a beauty contest but they are perfect for juicing or Autumn stews. There is scope for us to add more fruit and vegetables to this wonky veg line in the future but we will trial the offer first with carrots and mushrooms with a view to expanding the range depending on the response from customers. We don’t want our customers to compromise on quality, wonky veg just looks slightly different on the outside.”
This announcement underpins Tesco’s commitment to reducing food waste following the recent announcements of partnerships with foodcloud and Bia Food Initiative (BiaFi). Earlier this year, Tesco became the first retailer to commit to donating all its surplus food to local charities across Ireland through an innovative partnership with foodcloud, a not for profit organisation that connects businesses with surplus food to community groups and charities through the use of an innovative app.