Formally Imperfect Produce, Imperfect Foods has been one of the marquee brands making some serious changes in the food waste space. Imperfect Foods has a goal of rescuing one billion pounds of food waste over the next eight years in addition to becoming a net-zero carbon operation.
In this Town Haul Rewind, host Amy Koonin Taylor sits down with Imperfect Foods’ Head of Sustainability, Maddy Rotman, to talk all about the evolution of the blemished produce subscription brand and how they continue to grow and evolve.
On the Imperfect Produce transition to Imperfect Foods:
MADDY ROTMAN: “So, Imperfect Foods started in 2015 as Imperfect Produce and started working with growers and farmers and producers really figuring out, what are these too small, too large, odd-shaped, outsized, off-spec products that we’re leaving in the ground or leaving in the field or actually dumping, throwing out into compost or trash, that we could bring to customers? So, really starting there to say, ‘Why are grocery standards so high, and what if we actually dismantled this concept of perfection and built a marketplace for things that are too small and too big and odd shapes and sizes, because we don’t need to all be perfect?’ We started there in 2015 at the farm, and now fast-forward to 2021, and we’re Imperfect Foods. So we not only sell fruits and vegetables but also snacks, proteins, dairy, your entire grocery assortment. I’m staring at my desk and looking at our blemished almonds that are my snack right now. So, we sell a full assortment and really work to find ways that we can reduce food waste and really eliminate this farm level or supply chain level food waste that’s occurring and bring it right to customers’ doors through weekly subscriptions.”
On what makes something “imperfect”:
MADDY ROTMAN: “So, everything from the almonds that I’m staring at [that] are a little scarred or blemished, and those wouldn’t make it through the grading system. We have everything from oranges that may have scars or pears that may be a little too small for regular consumption, so small, large, a little blemished. We also have things like broken items. My favorite are the dark chocolate pretzel pieces. Typically, you get a bag of pretzels, and they’re sort of the perfect pretzel shape, but in the process, a lot break. So we buy all of the broken pieces, cover them in dark chocolate, and sell dark chocolate-covered pretzel pieces. A lot of it is sort of learning and understanding, what is the supply chain of food, and how can we sort of grab up these broken or blemished or wrong size or shaped items and bring them to customers? It started with just fruits and veggies, and we still hold that so core to our values and our truth and work with hundreds of growers every week to bring fruits and veggies to our customers. But we also have broken pretzel bits, off cut salmon cuts, as well as a whole assortment of other items as well. We’re a full shop.”
On how Imperfect Foods is impacting the communities they serve:
MADDY ROTMAN: “We partner with nonprofits in our communities who are real experts at food access and food security. Over 78 partners last year that we worked with to ensure that we could donate millions of pounds, there was 3.6 million pounds of food that we were able to donate to the 78 folk who are really key, core assets in the community to make sure that we’re creating food security in our backyard, right? In the communities we work in, that we employ our folks in, we’re partnering with these nonprofits who do incredible work, whether they’re standing up sort of markets every week or their actual soup kitchens, cooking food every week. They’re staples in the community, and they often don’t have fresh food. They have a lot more staples or shelf-stable items. So getting our donations of fresh fruits and veggies every week, it really makes all the difference to them. That goes back to how we can save more food from our growers and provide them more value, and we can provide better outcomes for our communities by this donation in our backyard. So, it’s sort of a win-win there that we’re able to save more food, which has positive environmental outcomes, helps our grower network, and actually donates and partners in our communities for better food access and food security.”
On one lesson she’s learned during the pandemic:
MADDY ROTMAN: “People matter. Call your family. Text your best friend. Call your first-grade teacher that you’re still thinking about who changed your life, because people are the most important thing.”
Amy Koonin Taylor is Marketing Content and Media Manager at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.