Wonky vegetables: should you buy them?

Every year, approximately one third of the food produced is wasted, this is equal to 1.3 billion tonnes. Food waste is a problem not only because this food can be used to feed people, but also due to the large carbon footprint associated with food production. Food waste occurs throughout the supply chain, starting from the farm it is grown on, to the household it ends up at. But what about the food that never even reaches our supermarkets?

The term ‘Wonky vegetable’ is used to describe a vegetable that is aesthetically imperfect. In 2008, an EU law which stated that all vegetables that were sold had to be of a certain colour, shape and size was abolished. Any product that did not fit this description was disposed of, despite the fact that these vegetables were perfectly fit for consumption. From 2008 to 2015, supermarkets in the UK continued to uphold their own stringent conditions on the appearance of the vegetables that they sold, convinced that the consumer would not buy a Wonky vegetable.

In 2015, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall began a ‘War on Waste’ campaign. The War on Waste exposed that up to 40% of vegetables never reach the supermarket shelves because of their appearance. By acting in this way, the supermarkets, were not only affecting the farmers by putting them out of business as they are not making enough money on their crop produce, but also adding to the large amount of food waste that the UK produces each year. This is all because of the way a vegetable looks!

The War on Waste made an impact, and in 2016, most major supermarket chains enrolled schemes in which they sell these wonky vegetables to consumers at a lower price, making it beneficial to customers to buy food that may look different, but tastes the same. ASDA has created a wonky vegetable box, which they are selling in 497 of their stores. Tesco has also rolled out various schemes throughout the year – one under the headline of ‘Scary vegetables’ – which came out in Halloween 2016, and allowed you to fill a bag of aesthetically imperfect vegetables for 30p. Tesco’s now also has a ‘perfectly imperfect’ range of fruit and vegetables. Waitrose has a ‘little less than perfect range’, which you can buy on their online store. Morrisons also sells wonky vegetables in their stores.

Now, in 2017, wonky vegetables have entered many stores, however, the War on Waste has not been won. Even though supermarkets are now putting these vegetables on the shelves, it is still in small proportions. It is important, as a consumer, that we continue to buy these imperfect looking vegetables so that we show supermarkets that we don’t care if a vegetable is wonky or straight. Ultimately, driving down the amount of food waste that is produced due to its appearance and reducing our carbon footprint.