A waste-prevention organisation named ‘Fruta Feia’ (Ugly Fruit) has, since being set up three years ago, salvaged a total of 500 tons of ‘ugly’ fruit and veg which would otherwise have been thrown out and, in doing so, helped 116 producers channel out products that would have been squandered due to their appearance.
Fruta Feia hit the 500-tons target on Monday, through its seven sale points; four in Lisbon and three in Porto.
Every week, by selling directly to the public, the project prevents around eight tons of less-aesthetically-pleasing fresh fruit and vegetables from being thrown away.
“Reaching 500 tons is a big achievement,” said Isabel Soares, one of the project’s four mentors, admitting the team “never thought or even imagined they would reach such targets “in so little time.”
Touting the motto “attractive people eat ugly fruit”, the co-op collects imperfect fruit and veg that are undesirable to mainstream supermarkets directly from producers and sells them to the final consumer in hampers at lower prices.
So far, since 2013, the project has sold 500 tons of produce – or eight tons a week – that would otherwise have failed to comply with standard calibres and would have gone to waste.
‘Ugly Fruit’ was founded after its co-creators won a competition for innovative Portuguese ideas, and launched with a €15,000 cash prize, ten associated farmers and 400 kilos of fruit a week via one point of sale. A scale that has since flourished.
“It is important that we have managed to come up with a business model that is economically self-sustainable. Normally social projects fold. We have managed to create a model in which revenue from the sale of fruit is sufficient to cover our overheads”, Isabel Soares explained.
She said the idea came up “after I realised that one of the reasons for this waste is the preference of major retailers for aesthetically perfect fruit and vegetables, while this has nothing to do with their quality.”
The forward-thinking entrepreneur stressed that the ‘Ugly Fruit’ project has “shown the world that a different type of consumerism is possible” – one where farmers are paid “a fair price” which still covers transport and salaries for people who work at the cooperative.
She added that, future-wise, the objective is to keep expanding the project’s impact, and said “there is still waste to be
“Food waste due to appearance is a high problem. We are faced with a monster. On average, 30 percent of what is produced by farmers [is ugly fruit], which is a lot. There is still work to be done in this field and we want to continue salvaging these products from waste”, she affirmed.
An ‘Ugly Fruit’ point of sale is planned for Coimbra, for 2018.
Most recent data from the UN’s Food and Farming Organisation indicates that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year.