'Wonky' veg is good for you - and your pockets

17 May, 2017

Caterers are being urged to step up to the plate and play an active role in reducing food waste by using more ‘wonky’ veg.  The fresh call comes from a leading supplier to the hospitality industry in response to a new government report which says ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables should be considered normal.

In the Food Waste Report, published on 30th April by the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, MPs urge supermarkets to relax standards which require produce to be ‘perfectly’ shaped.

We encourage the hospitality industry to lead by example, and to reap the rewards by cutting their own costs and reducing needless waste.

Regency Purchasing Group Managing Director, Alex Demetriou says: “Years ago, no one worried about what shape their fruit and vegetables were. They grow naturally, so nobody expected perfectly round tomatoes or smooth potatoes without some lumps and bumps; it was much more about what was below the surface.

But people have become conditioned to believe their food items should be specific shapes or sizes. This mentality means plenty of perfectly good produce is needlessly wasted, and leaves suppliers unable to sell some stock which is just as nutritionally good for you as the perfect-looking items.

This puts unnecessary pressure on the suppliers, and can mean increased prices for the limited quantity of perfectly-shaped produce.

At a time when many businesses within the hospitality industry are struggling to balance their books, pubs and restaurants can make significant savings of up to 12% just by buying the less attractive-looking produce.

This reduces the pressure on their balance sheets as well as reducing pressure on suppliers, and cuts waste. Less waste means more product availability, which helps keep prices down.

Chefs commonly cut, dice or mash a product long before it is ever seen by the consumer, so as long as the quality is good, caterers can achieve their savings without customers having any idea that the delicious food they are eating did not start out as perfectly-shaped produce.”

Kent-based Watts Farms, a Regency Purchasing Group supplier, has been providing wonky veg to a major supermarket chain for some time after a successful trial which was championed by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty on their Friday Night Feast TV show.

Family-sized boxes of unattractive items were sold, saving families 30% compared to the cost of standard lines. The trial proved popular and was extended to 128 stores.

In the wake of that success, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall providing plenty of food for thought on the environmental and financial impact of food waste on his TV series, Hugh’s War on Waste, Watts Farms also agreed to supply London’s Congress Centre with seasonal wonky veg.

The British hospitality industry currently has to adhere to 10 EU legal standards on the size and shape of fruit and veg in shops; but these rules may be stripped away as a result of Brexit, which could open the door for home-grown ‘wonky’ produce to become much more acceptable and more widely available.

The latest government report claims food waste costs the average person in the UK £200 every year, with estimates of up to one third of produce grown by farmers currently ending up as food waste because it is not the right shape or size.

Alex added: “At a time when food prices generally are rising, reducing unnecessary waste is good news for growers and suppliers, better business for the hospitality trade and could mean better value for the consumers, too.

“Whichever way you look at it, that has to be a positive outcome.”

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