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Grocery wars get ugly: Hy-Vee now offers discounts on misshapen fruit and veg

Discounts of up to 30 percent on produce that doesn't conform to society's expectations of beauty.
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Hy-Vee is making shoppers think twice before discarding misshapen fruit and vegetables from now on, by offering discounts on so-called "ugly" produce.

In an attempt to combat the country's food waste issue (and make a few bucks at the same time, no doubt), the Iowa-based grocery chain's stores will feature "cosmetically challenged" fruit and vegetables that can be found in bins named "Misfits."

In an announcement this week, the chain says it will have four to six "Misfit" fruit and veg to choose from every week, which will carry discounts of around 30 percent compared to the produce that conforms to society's expectations of beauty.

Peppers, cucumbers, squash, apples, mandarins and tomatoes have been among the misshapen food to appear in stores so far.

Citing United Nations data that estimates 20-40 percent of produce harvested each year is thrown away because it doesn't meet "sizing standards" for store shelves, Hy-Vee hopes to challenge perceptions and educate consumers about waste, as well as giving farmers a new outlet to sell so-called ugly produce.

"The beauty of this program is that the produce tastes the same and is of the same high quality, it just looks different. As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. The same is true for Misfits fruits and vegetables," said John Griesenbrock, Hy-Vee’s vice president of produce/HealthMarkets.

"As a company with several focused environmental efforts, we feel it’s our responsibility to help educate consumers and dispel any misperceptions about produce that is not cosmetically perfect."

Hy-Vee is one of the newest entrants to the Twin Cities grocery market, with five stores already open (in New Hope, Eagan, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Park and Oakdale) and according to the Business Journal, nine more in the pipeline as it pursues an aggressive strategy.

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