There is a fascinating “sustainable” evolution happening in supermarkets around the world. From green juice bars, free tasting, online shopping support by local staff to health and wellness hubs, content curators and community portals.
Shape-shifting supermarkets are repositioning themselves as culturally and socially relevant organizations that can fulfill a great number of modern consumer needs.
Part of this evolution also has to do with the wiser choices supermarkets are making concerning their products.
As the earth’s capacity to provide food is threatened by climate change, water scarcity and unsustainable farming practices, nowadays, supermarkets must find ways to make land more productive and protect biodiversity on which all food production ultimately depends.
One way to tackle the issue, is to grow organic foods, but also control waste in the supply chain.
The numbers reported by NRDC are astounding. For instance, from farm to fork, about 40 percent of all the food produced in the United States goes uneaten. That amounts to $165 billion of wasted food every year (a figure which, notably, is in the same ballpark as the annual cost of obesity).
Why are losses on the farm so high? There are many contributing factors, but a big one that you and I play a part in is consumer demand for cosmetic perfection, for perfectly shaped peppers and uniform, bright red strawberries that seem to get bigger every year.
The whole supply chain, from the farm to the grocery store, is geared toward meeting that expectation. From apples to tomatoes, produce has to fit within very specific ranges for size, shape, color and other parameters.
People shop with their eyes and are simply no longer accustomed to seeing fruits and vegetables with holes or curious bumps, partly because we don't grow our own food anymore.
One supermarket that is stepping in on this trend is Waitrose. The UK based supermarket has announced that it will begin selling tomatoes that have fallen from the vine or are misshapen in a drive to reduce food waste.
Labelled “Limited Selection”, the tomatoes are being made available at 77 outlets across the UK. Waitrose has previously had success selling misshapen strawberries and plums, as well as weather-blemished apples, depending on what is seasonally available.
Peter Cooke, Waitrose's tomato buyer, commented: "When it comes to tomatoes there's absolutely no reason why beauty has to be skin deep. Every one of our mixed selection packs is different which, for me, is the real beauty of using tomatoes that wouldn't normally be offered in this way to customers."
Luckily, not only the supermarkets have evolved, but we, the consumers to. These days we should be savvy enough who understand the unpredictability of farming and to trust that the fruit will be just as delicious, even if the apples don’t look as perfect as usual.
Besides the “Limited Section,” Waitrose is also home to a organic cafe, juice bar, deli and a wine tasting table.
In line with this, many supermarkets have relaxed their requirements around the cosmetic values of fresh produce. This is important for local farmers with less-than-perfect crops, now commonly caused by mercurial weather conditions. As a further waste-reduction strategy, retailers must rethink unrealistic expiry dates on certain products.
Also taking part in the stand against imperfect foods is “Ugly Fruit,” a stand that makes juice, jams, and dried fruits out of unattractive produce donated from neighbourhood grocery stores. Ugly fruit, pretty yummy!