Food waste in the grocery industry has been an ongoing problem for a long time. Retailers like Whole Foods are more aware than most in addressing the problem of recycling, using solutions such as composting, diverting food to food banks and other methods to minimize waste. There are also some companies in the food industry that recognize this problem and take even bigger steps forward to reduce food waste. One of these companies is Project Juice.
Nature Is Not Perfect
Have you ever noticed that the produce in your favorite grocery store is full of almost-perfect shaped fruits and vegetables? Nature is not that discerning. Where do all of the “ugly” pieces go? Sometimes, fruits and vegetables do have unusual shapes and colors and sadly, consumers tend to not purchase them due to their visual appearances. This makes the distributor put in place a process where pieces that don’t meet the aesthetically pleasing standard do not make it to the consumer, thus getting wasted. However, the so-called ugly produce are imperfect in only one way; cosmetically, not nutritionally. This is where Project Juice comes in.
Quality Is 100 Percent Equal
The first time Project Juice was exposed to the concept of ugly produce was when they began working with an organic apple farmer. At the time, there was a shortage on apples and the representative from the farm told Project Juice that they could only sell them “juicing” apples. Project Juice inquired as to what differentiates a “juicing” apple from a regular apple. The farmer explained that the quality is 100 percent equal, but the juicing apples are typically small or misshaped and are probably passed over by a customer at a grocery store. Being a juice company, Project Juice was of course on board with using these smaller and misshaped apples to blend their amazing juice.
Partnering With The Farms
Finding and partnering with these farms was not as difficult as it seemed. “For ingredients that we purchase in high enough volumes, we work directly with farms,” explains co-founder Marra St-Clair. “Typically, small to medium sized farms are more responsive to the idea of selling their ugly produce because they are not as stuck in their processes. For some of the bigger farms, it is more cost-efficient for them to discard the produce than it is to interrupt their existing processes.”
Project Juice has taken on purchasing this so called ugly produce as a way to prevent nutritious food going to waste. Their interest in cold-pressed juicing came from a passion, and is rooted in certified organic produce, as well as non-GMO. It also came almost from necessity, for clients with sensitivities and food allergies. The reason Project Juice felt their mission was so important was because of the numbers. The stats Marra heard are staggering.
With as much as 20 billion pounds of produce wasted annually in this country alone, the negative impact this waste has on our environment is far-reaching,” said Marra. “In addition, I think there is huge value in helping people to understand what real food looks like! While you can’t see the produce when it’s in our juice, we hope that we can help raise awareness surrounding the concept of ugly produce – and that it really is no different nutritionally. The hope is that one day it is just called “produce,” regardless of shape or size.
The goals of Project Juice are simple for the short term. “We are always seeking certified organic farms that are willing to sell their ugly produce, in order to increase the amount of ugly produce we can save,” explains Marra. “We will continue to innovate juices or smoothies that feature all ugly produce when possible.”