Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen’s interview with the Wall Street Journal gave no answers to successfully selling ugly fruits and vegetables.
McMullen discussed solutions to food waste, especially donations, but he dodged the question about the Cincinnati-based chain’s progress on ugly produce.
WSJ: What are you doing to cut down on food waste?
Mr. McMullen: Over the last four years, we've partnered with local food banks and provided over 1 billion meals. In some of our fresh departments, that would have been product we'd have thrown away. We were able to partner with local food banks so fresh product that is still high quality to eat, but you wouldn't sell from an appearance standpoint, [is donated]. We legitimately believe we will be able to get every store to be zero waste.
WSJ: Much of the food that's wasted in the U.S. is edible produce that doesn't meet aesthetic standards. Do you believe customers are open to eating less-attractive tomatoes?
Mr. McMullen: I grew up on a farm. Last Sunday, I went out to see my parents and their garden, and I find the produce that looks the ugliest tastes the best.
You can read the whole interview here.
Maybe the ugly produce solution is in delivery.
The Packer’s Tom Karst looked at a Food Marketing Institute report in his Fresh Talk blog earlier this month. It showed "appearance" ranked as the top factor for consumers when selecting and buying fruits and vegetables.
When consumers see beautiful produce, they are called to it. But what if they never see ones with blemishes next to the perfect?
Retailers should try to attract online consumers to ugly produce since the comparison is now out of mind. A little price incentive also wouldn’t hurt.