April 24, 2015

Loblaw re-thinks the model for “unfit” produce

It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of perfectly good produce never find their way to grocery shelves each year because it is misshapen or bruised. In stark contrast, the most recent info from Statistics Canada suggest that 8.3% of households experience food insecurity – that is, do not have access to a sufficient variety or quantity of food due to a lack of money.

Delphi client, Loblaw Companies Limited, has set out to do something about this.

In addition to its ongoing waste diversion and reduction efforts, Loblaw has recently introduced the no name® Naturally Imperfect™ line of fruits and vegetables. Selling misshapen apples and potatoes is the first step, with plans to expand the product offering in the future. Loblaw is the first national grocery retailer to bring this concept to Canada.

“The imperfect produce tastes the same and has the same nutritional benefits as the other fruit and vegetables, but we’re selling it for up to 30 cents less,” said Ian Gordon, senior vice president of Loblaw Brands, Loblaw Companies Limited.

“It’s a no-brainer for us: the program provides a market for farmers to sell their smaller, misshapen products; it’s a way for us to bring nutritious food options to consumers at a lower price point; and it reduces the amount of food waste ending up in landfill.”

Loblaw Companies sees imperfect food as opportunity, not waste. This is just one example of innovation in the retail sector, but – given Loblaws’ size – it has the potential to positively influence supply chains and consumers.

Interestingly, blemished fruit was previously considered to be a reason organic produce would be held back from being accepted in the market. Being organic often meant that the look of the fruit or vegetable wasn’t as expected. This concern has been mitigated to a certain degree by the double digit growth of the organic market year over year. That said, for fresh produce, the strength of that market segment remains variable depending on the store location. Loblaw’s efforts to ‘normalize’ imperfect looking, yet otherwise tasty and healthy food, will also help change perceptions of nutrition and value.

Tell us what you think! And share your views on the future of sustainability in the retail sector.

By: Alex Carr – Senior Associate (acarr@delphi.ca)

Jessika Horak – Marketing Coordinator (jhorak@delphi.ca)