Shoppers need significant discount to justify ugly produce purchases, study finds

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Shoppers need significant discount to justify ugly produce purchases, study finds

So-called 'ugly produce' is one of the hottest topics in the industry as consumers and retailers alike seek to grapple with food waste problems, but the commitment can only go so far. 

This is what a recent survey found in the U.S. and Europe, with the vast majority only willing to pay for imperfect fruits and vegetables if the discount is big enough.

Machine learning and predictive analytics provider Blue Yonder surveyed 2,000 consumers across the U.K., U.S., France and Germany, and found 81% of those shopping in the supermarket and at discount retailers would buy imperfect fruit and vegetables.

The figure slips to just 52% online, an increasingly popular channel for shopping.

The imperfection comes at a cost though with 90% needing a discount to incentivize the purchase; 60% need a discount of at least 20%, and of these shoppers 22% of people need a discount of at least 50%.

As France's Intermarché was a pioneer of the ugly produce movement and the country has now banned food waste at supermarkets, it makes sense that out of the respondents the French were the most open to imperfection in their food purchases - 59% need a 20% discount, compared to 46% in the U.K., 67% in Germany and 74% in the U.S.

The gap in preferences across the Atlantic was also stark in online shopping, with 36% of U.S. online shoppers saying they would buy imperfect fruit or vegetables.

When in the supermarket, French shoppers are the most accepting of imperfection with 93% stating they will buy at a discount, with Germany close behind at 85%, followed by the U.K. (80%) and the U.S. (66%).

Blue Yonder also noted an interesting difference in attitudes between genders and age groups globally, with 41% of 25-34 year olds already buying wonky fruit and veg.

The older you get, the less likely you are to accept wonky veg, according to the survey. Older generations (55+) are by far the least likely to buy wonky veg (42% said they wouldn’t even consider it).

In terms of the gender divide, men are more opposed to buying wonky fruit and veg than women in supermarkets (21% vs 17%) and discounters (21% vs 17%).

"Discounting imperfect produce helps overcome the waste problem in the supply chain. However, for it to have a real impact on waste reduction, retailers need to understand what demand will be for products - wonky or not - to accurately stock the right amount of ‘imperfect’ versus ‘perfect’ fruit and vegetables," says Blue Yonder retail industry director Matt Hopkins.

"It would be pointless to reduce waste in the supply chain, only to see retailers having to throw it away from the supermarket/distribution centers’ shelves. 

"The findings also indicate that accurate markdown pricing is needed to successfully sell imperfect fruit and vegetables. Pricing ‘imperfect fruit and veg’ versus ‘perfect fruit and veg’ will add to the complexity and number of decisions in a world where grocery is already struggling to keep pace."

Hopkins encouraged the use of advanced machine learning algorithms for the best decisions, delivered on a daily basis.

"Perhaps most important for the sale of perfect versus imperfect ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables is that advanced machine learning algorithms can simultaneously optimize for price and replenishment, enabling the grocery retailer to accurately stock, replenish and without risking profitability," he said.

Photo: Imperfect Produce


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