food waste wonky veg

Jamie and Jimmy are on a mission to get wonky fruit and veg back in our shopping baskets - and they’ve done a good job of it already.

In the last series of their Channel 4 TV show, Friday Night Feast, we saw the boys approach UK supermarket chain Asda to trial the launch of what will now be a new Beautiful on the Inside range. Since January 2015, the supermarket has sold ugly produce at a 30% discount, alongside the more expensive, regular veg we’re used to.

But why do we want crooked carrots and knobbly potatoes on our shelves anyway? Well, a staggering 20-40% of fruit and veg produced by UK farmers ends up wasted; either left for animal feed, ploughed back into the land or sent to landfill, because supermarkets don’t want them. In an exposé of what Jamie deems the “tip of the iceberg” of wasted wonky veg, the TV series sees Jamie and Jimmy visiting a Norfolk farm, where up to 10 tonnes of misshapen veg are rejected on a weekly basis. The reason? Because they look ugly.

Supermarkets have tried to justify the waste by saying consumers won’t buy it. For years we’ve been used to seeing fruit and veg of a standard shape, size and colour. You compare a blemish-free carrot with its crooked friend, and which are you more likely to choose?

The good news is it might be the latter. Sold at a discounted price, the idea of buying fruit and veg that taste just as good as their better-looking peers doesn’t seem like such a bad offer. According to Asda’s consumer research, 65% of customers are open to buying wonky fruit and veg, while 75% are more likely to buy them if they’re sold at a cheaper price. So wonky veg might not get thrown away, and farmers won’t be forced to over-produce to make sure they meet their targets.

As Jimmy says: “When half a million people in the UK are relying on food banks, this waste isn’t just bonkers – it’s bordering on criminal.”

It’s time that we change our mindset when it comes to the fruit and veg we buy. Good marketing campaigns that work to make ugly produce the norm, as well as bring all types of veg – blemishes and all – to our supermarkets, are the best way to ensure that happens.

With the colder months upon us, buy some wonky veg and turn them into warming soups or comforting stews – you’ll see there’s absolutely no difference in taste at all!


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  • mickey

    Dear Jaimie and Malou – I am very interested in not wasting any veggies and support your plans for reduced cost of “odd” veggies. I have one concern. I was a volunteer for a local group here that glean veggies and collect irregular ones to distribute fresh veg to foodbanks, senior centers, day cares, programs that feed homeless, etc. I guess I’d like to put that out there so we don’t inadvertently reduce veggies that fuel those programs that help those who can’t afford fresh food lose out. Maybe a whole different situation in your country, but wanted to let you know in case you need to reorganize so that we don’t disrupt good social aide systems built on “our” previous abhorrence to “odd” veggies. I have some cool photos of said veggies I have taken.

    • Oisin Neary

      Maybe make it so that a certain percentage of the “wonky veg” goes to homeless regardless

  • Kelly

    I can’t understand why there are such strict requirements for the physical appearance of veg. All of the veg will taste the same, regardless of the appearance of it. Not to mention, the majority of veg is cut, diced or grated anyway, meaning no one who eats it will not know what it looked like to begin with. I don’t believe that supermarkets are giving enough credit to the general public regarding this. We live in a world where we accept diversity and difference everyday, in various ways. I don’t believe that, in this kind of world, the majority of the general public will actually care how straight a cucumber is! I agree with the previous comment, where we need to pay attention to what effect this would have on other industries, but I can safely promise that I would buy ugly veg if it was available in supermarkets!

  • valerie

    I agree that it is bordering on criminal to throw away good food because of it’s shape. It is the supermarkets that are dictating to the customer. They are the ones that say the ‘customer’ will not buy misshapen veg, but has the ‘customer’ been given the choice, If you buy from a Farmers Market the food is fresh and sometimes misshapen, if you grow your own veg it it sometimes misshapen, but the latter two taste far superior.

  • matthew watkins

    Where we live (in Wales) some farmers set up “stalls” at the end of their drives to sell some of the veg off quite cheaply which is a drop in the ocean, but the intention is correct.

  • Comp

    I have been using blemish fruit and veg boxes from 5aday deliveries for a few years now. Each week I have two crates delivered (one veg & one fruit) filled with a random variety of produce. All my meals are prepared using “blemished” food, most of it is just oversized or mishapen. I save a fortune and they get to offload all the less than perfect produce. Maybe an ugly hub to be established where rejects go which are then packed up into boxes like the blemish boxes and shipped off to schools/caters/domestic deliveries/outlets. Or maybe that’s pandering to the supermarkets/food snobs who should just get a grip, suck it up and stop being so fussy.

  • http://matt-adlard.deviantart.com/ Matt Adlard

    WIth so many people living below the breadline in the country ad using food banks, why is this food not being sent to them to help, all that food could go to soup kitchens to help feed the homeless. Offer Farmers a tax incentive to do it and everybody wins.

  • C A

    I don’t see why we even have to call them “ugly” veg at all, they are just normal veg.
    Anyone who has ever tried to grow their own will tell you that wonky veg is fairly common (perhaps even commoner than the perfect sort). This notion of perfect veg comes from modern society’s disconnection with nature and comparing something which is made in a factory to the fruits of nature.

    • POLLYANNA WINTERBOTTOM

      Well said.

  • John

    Hi Jamie, watching Jamie andJimmys Friday Night at mo and I wonder is it the public really rejecting ugly fruit , because we would happily buy ugly fruit from the super market , and as many families are price concious , they would buy the ugly veg if priced accordingly , but would this reduce profit for the supermarkets ?and is this really supermarket driven and not the public.

    • Helen Melia

      I agree that there’s an element of preaching to the converted and its the supermarkets that are the bad boys here, but they are following traditional retail principles of offering the best product at the best price. I applaud J and J for bringing this to the public attention and hope it will work but until the consumer has a choice in the supermarket ie misshapen veg in there as well, nothing will change. So we have to figure how to control supermarkets. Very heartening to see these efforts, I wish we could all do more

  • POLLYANNA WINTERBOTTOM

    I used to get my fresh fruit and veg at the market in Greece when I lived there….then at the market in Wales when I lived there too. All different shaped. I started shopping online not too long ago and found the too perfect symmetrical produce seemed somehow fake.
    The wonky stuff looks real, as it was when my mum bought it from the local greengrocer.
    It’s disgusting that so much food is thrown away! So many hunglry people in the world.
    I hope people everywhere do buy the real shaped produce as was the case not too many years ago.
    It’s not the customers who demand perfected same sized packed fruit and veg…..it’s tjhe supermarkets who started doing it….to look pretty on the shelves.

  • rhonda

    our supermarkets in Australia already have “The Odd Bunch” range … slightly irregular fruit and veg that are sold in kilo bags and at a reduced rate … I love them because what does doesn’t fit into the kids lunchboxes, is great for cooking. We get everything from The Odd Bunch table, and even the supermarket irregular fruit and veg is a lot straighter and eye pleasing than my home grown attempts LOL

  • Allan Poole

    Why aren’t the ugly fruit and veg sold to company’s that make fresh and frozen prepared food like stir fry packs, frozen fruit or veg or for soup?

  • Facebook User

    Anyone else been following the discussion on the ASDA website? Lots of very unhappy people who feel ASDAs token gesture of 20 boxes in a few of their very many stores is paying lip service to get positive press. We need to put the pressure on all the supermarkets to get serious if they really want to help farmers out and help us get hold of the “wonky” fruit and veg. It looks far more natural anyway.

  • Jenny Tippin

    was very disappointed today when I went to an Asda store (Frome) that is supposed to be selling the veg boxes… Only one person had a clue what I was talking about and he said they’d never had any in at all… He is hoping to contact someone soon about it but I wanted to ask too as I’m very interested in supporting this. Here’s hoping it actually works out and that it will eventually be a common thing to have ‘wonky’ veg on the shelves!

  • samantha sayer

    Dear Jamie & Jimmy I watched ur programe in the cafe, friday night suppers & all about the veg waste. I have become very passionate about veg & waste etc. Anyway I have this idea of opening a shop were I live & selling only the stuff that wouldnt normally make the supermarket & I also have ideas to make sure that if it doesnt all sell there are other things to do so it still doesnt get wasted but I dont want to put all my ideas on this message incase someone else pinches them lol. So anyway my point is, that I dont know were to start in putting all my plans together so im wondering could u help, u know advice, pointers, tips etc. Please could u contact me as I would realy like to help put a stop to this problem. Many thanks Samantha Sayer. My email address is samanthasayer12@gmail.com

  • Ani

    Jamie – tried to get the Wonky Veg Box in Hall Road, Norwich ASDA – it is being sold in the bigger ASDA so tackled two Managers who said ‘because Hall Road is a new ASDA it is not on the circulation list for the Veggie box and ASDA have sold out nearly everywhere and have been taken by surprise’ . I Replied, ‘you advertised it would be available on Friday 5th and it is not, Jamie Oliver has done a great job talking about this – why can’t we have it in all ASDA branches? Told them to bring this up at meetings and get their act together ASAP and I might add it took five phone calls and a visit to find this out

  • Alison sellers

    I don’t understand why the dialogue doesn’t mention that the wonky veg is not as profitable because it takes up more shelf space at supermarkets therefore reduces their capacity To stock their shelves to the max per square inch …. Take a look at the shelves – straight veg is cheaper and easier to package and arrange in store !
    I don’t believe this is consumer driven, I THINK it’s is led by the grocery stores – I suggest they stop blaming consumers, let’s face it, we will all eat wonky veg- it’s more attractive.

  • andrea

    I went to asda in Farnborough which is on the list to stock the veg boxes. I asked a member of staff who clearly didnt know what i was talking about. I phoned the store this afternoon and they said that they havnt had any boxes for the last 2 days. How can stores gauge popularity if the boxes are not available for customers to buy?

  • JackieD

    Just watching the repeat of Jamie & Jimmy. Re the wonky veg: This annoys me sooooo much. Anyone who’s ever tried to grow their own will know how difficult it is, and any veg, big or small, fat or thin, straight or wonky, will be used, with minimal waste. Perhaps everyone should be made to grow their own, then they’d appreciate all veg, whatever it’s shape or size. And as for the supermarkets, the buyers should be ashamed for insisting on ‘perfect’ veg.

  • Beverley

    My husband and I went to Asda Bletchley, Milton Keynes last Saturday after watching Friday Night Feast to percifically buy the ugly veg box. We were very disappointed as they did not have any, we spoke to an assistant working in the fruit and department to be told that they had only been delivered 10 boxes on the Friday.
    This Asda is one of the biggest stores in Europe so we wonder if they are serious or playing lip service.

  • domoda

    Like others, I specifically went to Asda to buy a box, just to show support for the initiative and to give Asda the benefit of my weekly shop for taking this stance. I went to a smaller store – nothing there. Fair enough, it was a small store. I went to Barnsley Superstore – I asked a lady in the veg section who looked at me daft, made me feel an idiot, and then eventually realised what I was talking about after I explained some more. She suggested that ‘perhaps’ they would have them in Wakefield – 13 miles away. Asda have clearly just been tokenistic and not even informed their staff properly. I will not be giving Asda my custom again. Shame.

  • Mac Howarth

    Beginning to think ASDA are just after a free bit of TV time. They said they would roll the wonky veg out nationwide, sadly that is not the case. Our local branch (Bromsgrove) have had many people asking for it but according to their staff they can’t order it in. Shame on ASDA.

  • Val B

    Our nearest asda doing the wonky boxes isn’t close enough to reach easily and as I’m disabled I emailed Asda to see if they are making them available online or in our local store. I recieved a poor quality answer phone message to say that they were only trialling it in some stores and may consider it online if there’s demand.
    I don’t understand why they didn’t trial it online and we would all have access to it. Even with the minimum order cost online we know enough people who want to have them but can’t get them and we could order on their behalf and distribute them ourselves.
    More to the point why isn’t Tesco trying it?

  • Donna Faber

    I went to my nearest Asda which is advertised to sell the wonky veg boxes. Now, I know it’s a trial, but the store said they had not had any boxes in over the last 9 days. How is it possible to gauge the popularity of an item if they do not stock it. It is beginning to feel like Asda are not serious about this initiative and it would be good if you could find out what is going on and get some answers for us all

  • marie

    Ugly vegetables are not thrown away most of them are made into jams, juices, passata, mixed in sauces fed to animals etc… The only reason why only ‘pretty’ vegetables are sold is because the consumer requests it. So its our fault really..

    I heard about the ugly box of vegetables on sale at Asda. I thought selling ugly vegetables was a great thing to do. My nearest Asda store is not very far. I went on Tuesday and there was no box of ugly vegetables. I did my weekly shop anyway, I was told they would have some boxes on Thursday. On Saturday I went back and I was told come back next week we may have them! what kind of customer service is that? Nobody knows if they are going to get some or not!!! I come to the conclusion that it is s marketing gimmick and it does not exist or may be in very few stores! Pitty

  • Di Harris-Baxter

    went to asda today to get a veg box and there was none they had a very small space for them maybe 12 boxes at most, such a shame there was not more.
    all these people that say they cant afford freash veg for their kids and its just being binned because its not perfect looking try growing your own and see the shapes they come out

  • HoneyMonster

    Went to the local Asda that was meant to have the wonky veg…they’d had some 2 weeks ago but none since. So went to our usual store, who aren’t meant to be in the pilot, and found some boxes there so we picked one up. Very disappointed with the contents considering they claim it can feed a family. What use is 2 carrots or 1 parsnip? But there were plenty of potatoes and onions, presumably to justify the low cost. I want to support the farmers but Asda seems to be doing this as a marketing gimmick. Not impressed!

  • disqus_wRO9rb3wiu

    Also went to Gillingham, Dorset Asda and no sign of the veg box either. I would buy at least 2 of these a week but can’t find them at any local branches. Asda seems to be all talk but can’t do the walk!

  • Alison Levell

    About a month ago, Asda revealed that they would be supporting Jamie Oliver’s wonky veg campaign and a list was released of the first stores that would be piloting the scheme. One of these was the Tilbury store and also the Dagenham store. However when I visited these stores, neither had any in stock nor any indication that they had ever had any. A short while later Asda announced that the scheme would roll out to all of its stores. Again, I tried to find one of these at Dagenham, Tilbury, Eastgate and Pipps Hill stores. No luck in any of them. When I asked in Tilbury on my third attempt, I was told by a member of staff in the veg department that he had only seen the boxes in store on two occasions. What makes this particularly annoying is that I do not live close to an Asda,nor do I drive so every time I come to look for these boxes I am either relying on a friend for a lift or catching a train which is a significant investment of time and money and to find out that these boxes almost don’t exist is really upsetting. I think it is dishonest of Asda to enjoy the positive publicity that this scheme has generated and not provIde the produce in acceptable quantities.

  • Mac Howarth

    Obviously Asda are only doing this as an advertising gimmick, as it is limited to only a small amount of stores. Sorry Jamie, but unless this can become main stream it will not help farmers at all. Have now tried 3 different Asda stores, spoke to the fruit & veg managers at each store and had almost identical replies – ” According to head office our store is not big enough”
    Shame on Asda for trying to look good at the expense of farmers.

  • Sharon McGuire

    Sorry Jamie, but I think Asda are not being genuine about their support for this campaign. I live right next door to a massive Asda and I use it like a local shop in that I but little and often, so I visit 5 or 6 days a week. After months of asking, they finally had some boxes of wonky veg which I snapped up immediately. How disappointing. All three leeks were old and bendy, 4 carrots and 1 parsnip were bendy and one onion had mould. I’m guessing that the veg is old, not wonky. Asda have a leaflet in each box advising that they guarantee the freshness of the contents – need to do better than that.