Wonky Vegetables, what are the opportunities for ugly fruit and veg?

Wonky, over-sized, under-sized and over-blemished - the fruits and vegetables that until recently, never made it down the supermarket aisle catwalk.

Up to 40% of a crop of vegetables can go to waste because of the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets, but when, or, did we decide that beauty was more important than taste? Why are wonky vegetables even an issue? And are we as anti-wonky as retailers think? Wonky veg is increasing in demand and was even dubbed one of the growing food trends in 2017 and 2018. So, what’s in it for Welsh growers?

What’s the reason for Wonky Veg?

Until 2009, there was often a misconception that any fruit or vegetables which did not look "perfect" could not be sold by retailers. But rules which came in to force in 2009 simplified how retailers could market produce without misleading consumers. So long as it is clean, free from pests or diseases, is not rotten, and is labelled with the country of origin, retailers are able to market it as they see fit.

But almost 10 years later and with up to 40% of a crop of vegetables still going to waste because of the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets, have we become too accustomed to the perfect vegetable? Where do supermarket aesthetic standards come from? Is it a result of our buying habits?

Over the past few years, we have been waking up to the realities of food waste after it was revealed that the sector produces 10 million tonnes of food waste a year. Celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall also helped to bring light to the issue, and have spurred on a change in consumer perception around food waste. 

After listening to customers’ concerns about food waste, supermarkets are beginning to embrace wonky veg, are relaxing their aesthetic requirements, and are even making use of wonky veg in new products.

UK supermarkets, have pledged to reduce food and drink waste by a fifth by 2025. This pledge is part of The Courtauld Commitment, and as of November 2017, TyfuCymru are proud to be one of the signatories to the Courtauld Commitment 2025. 

Wonky veg is increasing in demand and was even dubbed one of the growing food trends in 2017 and 2018. So, what’s in it for Welsh growers? We take a look at the opportunities for embracing Wonky Veg.