Damaged fruits and vegetables find their place on the table via internet sales
Vegetables and fruits are often damaged or deformed due to the intense heat and torrential rains in Japan. Although as tasty as ordinary products, they are often excluded from supermarket shelves.
However, food delivery and e-commerce companies are now selling these products for direct shipment to people.‘s houses.
Company offerings are proving popular because imperfect products are cheaper than more standard fare, resulting in less food waste.
Oisix Ra Daichi Inc., a major food delivery company, launched a new service in August selling through its website deformed vegetables such as deformed okra due to prolonged rains from Okinawa Prefecture, twisted cucumbers to caused by high temperatures in Nagano Prefecture and pumpkins that grew rapidly and enlarged due to a heat wave in Ibaraki Prefecture.
“The long scorching heat of summer this year has affected many agricultural products,” said a public relations officer from Oisix. “Buying these products can reduce food waste.”
Some products are much cheaper than those sold in supermarkets.
Customers must register to use the service and more than 19,000 people signed up in the three weeks since its launch.
“Users are very interested in actions that contribute to society,” said the official. “The number of subscribers is more than expected.
As deliveries are irregular, members are notified of the expected arrival date of imperfect fresh products.
Oisix believes in the strength of its delivery business, which maintains close ties with producers, which translates into one-time sales.
Cookpad, the leading recipe-sharing service, has also launched a new scheme to deliver off-spec produce directly from farmers at cheaper prices on its online shopping site.
The service is limited to the Tokyo metropolitan area due to delivery issues, but around 300 such products are sold each month.
The cost is attractive, as peaches from Yamanashi Prefecture sell for less than a third of the standard selling price.
Around 2,000 corn cobs from Saitama Prefecture, damaged by hail in June, were sold in just four days.
These products are so popular that Imperfect Salmon, Avocado and Fresh Oysters made the Hall of Fame Top 10 list for the first half of the year, which received high marks from customers.
Taechoku, an online site where people can buy fresh food directly from growers, has been selling damaged produce since April 2021.
He also started selling fish that had been discarded due to low catches in April this year.
“We have good packages. Our service supports producers and we believe consumers are becoming more understanding,” said a Tatechoku employee.
The high level of consumer interest encourages companies to continue.
A survey of 5,000 people carried out by the Consumer Agency in March showed that 48% of them were aware of off-specification agricultural and food products.
Of these, 73.1% said they would buy such products even if they were deformed or looked bad as long as the taste was the same as the standardized products.
Among respondents who said they were unaware of off-spec products, 23.6% said they would purchase such products.
The survey indicated that those who know about imperfect products are more likely to buy them.
“Awareness of these products is increasing in part thanks to the dissemination of the concept of the SDGs (sustainable development goals). We would also like producers to realize that even off-spec products can be sold,” the employee said.