In the face of ever-increasing pressure to tackle food waste, more and more retailers and foodservice providers are now recognising that ‘wonky veg’ are becoming a staple of the weekly shopping basket.
Of the estimated 15m tonnes of food disposed of annually in the UK, more than half is thrown away by households with just 1% – about 200,000 tonnes – coming from the main high street stores. Yet more and more of the big names are squaring up to the challenges posed by these veggie misfits as straight bananas, curly asparagus, knobbly carrots and the like line up to take their turn in the limelight!
Consumer demand for uniformity in fruit and vegetables is said to be one of the root causes of increased food waste. It’s been estimated that £3bn worth of food will be wasted by the UK foodservice and hospitality sector this year, up from £2.5bn in 2011.
In the retail sector, Tesco has already launched its ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ range of parsnips, potatoes, carrots and apples in more than 200 stores; Asda and Morrisons are also leading from the front with Asda selling boxes of in-season vegetables and salad ingredients at 30% less than its standard lines.
But this week, in a breakthrough for the foodservice sector, leading workplace contract caterer BaxterStorey announced a trial of wonky asparagus across its London sites in a bid to reduce the amount of the crop that is wasted every year. Working closely with its supplier, Watts Farm, which was forced to classify 15% of the 36 tonnes of the perfectly good asparagus it produced last year as waste because it wasn’t of uniform shape, BaxterStorey will be encouraging its chefs to focus on its flavour rather than on its appearance. The farm’s asparagus trimmings, which are usually consigned to waste, will also be used in a range of soups, stocks and sauces. If customer feedback is positive, BaxterStorey plans to roll out the initiative to more sites with other seasonal produce.
This move will surely help pave the way for other foodservice providers who together create and serve millions of meals every week; for that, BaxterStorey is to be applauded. The sooner we as consumers embrace ‘veg with character’ and accept them on our plates in pubs and restaurants, the sooner we will all contribute in a significant way to reducing the mountain of food waste which is the unacceptable face of food consumerism.