Tesco to combat fussy customers with discounts on ‘ugly’ fruit and veg

Supermarket tells MPs people must be ‘educated’ about waste and fresh food

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The Independent Online

Tesco has criticised fussy customers who reject misshapen fruit and vegetables, and said it was considering a number of measures to make ugly produce more attractive to the public.

The supermarket told MPs it faced the “very difficult reality” of shoppers only picking the best-looking fresh food, leaving the rest to go to waste.

The company said it was looking into ways to change people’s buying habits, such as putting on special offers just for ugly-looking food or redirecting all misshapen produce to its food service arm.

But the problem ultimately stems from the customer, food sourcing director Matt Simister told a House of Lords agriculture committee.

Gallery: The world's ugliest fruit and vegetables

He said the public needed to be “educated” about fresh food production and waste.

“Customers naturally select, they always pick the cream of crop first and the rest of it then gets left,“ he said.

”Then the new deliveries come in and you have the new cream of the crop - with the old, ugly, misshapen, left and it goes to waste.

“Customers will always make the choice of the one that looks cosmetically better. That's a very difficult reality to us.”

He compared UK shopping habits to those in eastern Europe where shoppers are happy to buy produce which is not “cosmetically” pleasing.

EU rules on misshapen fruit and vegetables were relaxed in 2009 but supermarkets still maintain their own product standards.

Representatives from Tesco, Waitrose and the waste industry have been giving evidence to the inquiry into food waste prevention

Earlier this year Tesco announced it was dropping some food promotions after finding that two-thirds of produce grown for bagged salad is wasted.

It published food waste figures for its operations for the first time, revealing that 68 per cent of salad to be sold in bags is thrown out – 35 per cent of it in the home.

As a result of the findings, it said it would end multi-buys on large bags of salad and is developing mix-and-match promotions for smaller bags in a bid to help customers reduce the amount they are wasting.

It has also moved to a “one date” system to stop customer confusion between display dates and use-by dates.

Additional reporting by PA