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Sprouts gets into the ‘imperfect’ organic produce game

The plan? Cut waste and support growers in its Rescued Organics program

Natural and organic retailer Sprouts Farmers Market has launched a program to funnel sales towards imperfect organic produce that would typically be discarded at a reduced price.

The program, Rescued Organic, which will be active in all 130 Sprouts locations in California, is intended to reduce food waste and support local farmers. Sprouts said the produce may be misshapen, under or over-size, or slightly off color, but will maintain the same taste, nutrients, and quality as other store produce.

“Five billion meals worth of edible food are left on farms each year, and the Sprouts Rescued Organics program is designed to help address that problem,” Nick Konat, Sprouts president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

The Rescued Organics initiative also will support Sprouts’ farmer partners, Sprouts said, noting that growers’ inability to sell imperfect produce makes farming less profitable and more difficult to operate. ​The program will initially involve 12 varieties of local produce, including potatoes, onions, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, pears, carrots, kiwi, and bell peppers.

Along with reducing food waste and helping farmers, Sprouts said Rescued Organics will reduce shoppers’ grocery bills and make organic produce more easily available to all.

Phoenix-based Sprouts operates more than 370 stores in 23 states.

Sprouts, meanwhile, is just the latest retailer to offer imperfect produce. A 2017 pilot involving the sale of Misfits-branded products at 15 Price Chopper and Market 32 stores in the Northeast was discontinued because of what the operator said was poor quality that was inconsistent with company standards, according to published reports. A similar pilot at 14 Albany, N.Y.-area Hannaford locations in 2016 was ended because of insufficient consumer interest, according to reports.

And of course, there are online grocers playing in this space. Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market both offer “ugly” produce subscription services.

A Sprouts spokeswoman said the company could not immediately provide additional comments.


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