Pretty imperfect produce

Operators cut costs and food waste with ugly fruits and veggies.


Shortly after Marco Alvarado, executive chef for University of the Pacific’s Café Bon Appétit, started purchasing secondhand produce—perfectly edible fruits and vegetables that can’t be sold to stores because of cosmetic imperfections—a local TV news station came knocking. With the cameras rolling, Alvarado made a vegetable saute using an imperfect zucchini with a small indentation, as well as a second saute with the kind of perfectly smooth zucchini you’d find on the supermarket shelf. “I placed the two sautes side by side, and no one could tell the difference,” Alvarado says.

Roughly 6 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables are thrown out each year just because they’re ugly, the National Resources Defense Council estimates. But some operators are realizing it doesn’t make sense to toss fresh fare just because it isn’t the ideal shape or size.

Many, like Alvarado, are enlisting the help of Imperfectly Delicious Produce, a program launched by Bon Appétit Management Company in 2014 that connects foodservice operators with regional growers. Farmers sell the cosmetically-imperfect produce that would’ve gone unharvested to operators, who often end up treating it exactly the same as nicer-looking fruits or vegetables.

“I don’t really look for something that’s super pretty, because I’m just going to process or cut it anyway,” says Alvarado. Often he’ll use spinach with broken leaves in composed dishes, such as a salad with strawberries and blue cheese. When a potato arrives blemished, he’ll cut the ugly parts off, dice up the rest and roast them.

It’s a similar story for Ryan Pomeroy, regional executive chef for senior-living contract services provider Flik Lifestyles. When IDP growers send him tomatoes that might not be pretty enough for the salad bar, he dices them up for fresh salsas and relishes. Moves like this have helped cut costs by 15 percent.

Matthew Dorsey, a Flik Lifestyles regional executive chef in the Washington, D.C., metro area, hasn’t noticed a difference in costs, but says imperfect produce helps him save in other ways. Broccoli florets that are too tiny to sell to supermarkets can be added to pizzas, stir-fries and grain or pasta salads without additional prep work. “It’s open the box and go—so you get a better cost-return,” he says.

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content

From Mondelez.

With consumers living increasingly busy, on-the-go lifestyles, operators who offer grab-and-go items are in the best position to benefit from the snacking public's eating habits. But since most people turn to different snacks throughout the day, operators need to provide diverse options to capture consumers' changing appetites. The ongoing popularity of grab-and-go items reveals trends that could help operators tailor their inventories to increase sales, especially in the workplace.

What do snackers want?

According to The Hartman Group's 2017 Out of Home...

Industry News & Opinion

Dining halls at the University of California at Los Angeles have begun serving more sustainable seafood dishes, reports the Daily Bruin, the university's student newspaper.

Officials say the change aims to provide healthier choices for students and to help the school reach its goal of sustainably sourcing at least 20% of its food by 2020. The additional seafood has been served in place of red meat, a shift that many students said they didn’t notice.

The fish is sourced from two local fisheries and follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s guidelines for sustainable...

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo has appointed Satya Menard as global CEO of its schools and universities segments.

Menard has been with Sodexo for 20 years, holding senior roles within the company such as CEO of benefits and rewards services for Central Europe and CEO of Central and South America for on-site services.

Most recently, Menard was CEO of service operations, a capacity in which he coordinated internal support to operations including service experts in facilities management, food, supply chain and information services and technology.

Menard will transition to the role beginning...

Sponsored Content
little caesars

From PODS ®.

Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, Little Caesars® is the largest carryout-only pizza chain in the United States. Founded in 1959 as a single, family-owned restaurant, Little Caesars has become the third largest pizza chain in the world with stores in 23 countries and territories worldwide, including in each of the 50 U.S. states. Each day it serves more than three million pizzas to its customers.

All the equipment used by Little Caesars is supplied by Blue Line Distribution, a wholly owned subsidiary of the restaurant franchise. This includes foodservice...

FSD Resources