Wal-Mart stores in Florida have begun to sell slightly-damaged produce in an effort to reduce the 60 million tons of food thrown out in the US each year. The initiative represents just one of the steps being taken by the major retailer to reduce food waste.
The “I’m Perfect” branded apples grown in Washington State, are currently being sold in 300 Wal-Mart locations in Florida. The apples feature bumps and bruises due to weather damage – usually a negative for consumers – but are still completely edible. The apples will eventually be available in 12 different varieties, including the popular Red Delicious and Granny Smith.
“One of the challenges growers have is that Mother Nature can throw a curveball such as a hailstorm, high winds or even a string of very hot sunny days, which can damage the exterior finish of fruits,” said Shawn Baldwin, senior vice-president of global food sourcing, product and floral, at Wal-Mart US. “While the texture and flavor remain perfect, the exterior damage usually renders these fruits unsellable in the fresh market because they fail to meet traditional grade standards. We’re proud to be the first retailer to bring these apples to you.”
According to Baldwin, Wal-Mart is working to better support suppliers by selling the less-than-perfect produce, which would otherwise result in revenue losses for the grower. In addition to the apples, the retailer also began selling weather-damaged Russet potatoes, known as Spuglies, at a discounted price in Texas Wal-Mart locations.
“From helping our growers find alternate uses for these less-than-gorgeous fruits, such as making apple juice or selling small apples for lunch kits, we are committed to identifying options to get less-than-perfect fruit to market and thereby reduce this type of food waste,” said Baldwin.
Confusion over food labels and best-before dates are also a common source of food waste in the US. In an effort to prevent edible food ending up in the landfill, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives set a new standard for date labels on food items earlier this year.
“Consumers often mistake date labels as food safety indicators; however, most of the labels are created based on peak quality,” said Frank Yiannas, vice-president of food safety at Wal-Mart. “Adding to the confusion is the different language used on labels, including ‘best by,’ ‘use by’ and ‘sell by.’ That’s why, in the last year, we started requiring suppliers of nonperishable food products under our Great Value private label to use a standardized date label, ‘Best if used by.’
The retailer has also pioneered a product to replace broken eggs in cartons, thereby preventing millions of undamaged eggs from being discarded every year. The simple and safe process was developed in collaboration with US regulators, who previously required retailers to throw an entire carton away if only one egg was broken.