A California startup that sells "ugly" produce has set up shop in Dallas. The company is called Imperfect Produce, and it describes its mission as bringing affordable produce while helping fight food waste.
According to a release, Imperfect works by sourcing produce that is rejected by grocery stores because it is not visually perfect, or else surplus produce from farms. They deliver it your door for up to 30 percent less than grocery store prices.
"If just 2,000 residents sign up, the Dallas community would be recovering 21,160 pounds of produce in a week and over 1 million pounds of produce a year," the release says.
That's probably going to be a ways down the road, as it's currently available in certain zip codes only, starting in the usual sweet spots around downtown and Uptown Dallas, as well as Addison, Irving, Coppell, and central Fort Worth, with plans to expand as they become more established.
Customers can choose a box size from small to extra large; organic vs. conventional produce; and all fruit or all vegetable, or a combination of both. Prices start at $12.
A typical fruit box delivered this week in Dallas contains lots of citrus: oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, with the occasional apple or banana. A medium-size vegetable box has cabbage, kale, asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and green bell peppers.
Founded in 2015, Imperfect debuted in Texas in 2018, when it launched in Austin and San Antonio. It expanded to Houston on January 28. The service is also available in Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Virginia.
Questions have been raised over whether Imperfect and similar companies such as Misfits Market and Hungry Harvest are actually taking business away from the original "ugly" produce operations: Community Supported Agriculture programs, aka CSAs.
One nonprofit in Oakland, California that supports small farmers of color said in 2018 that it saw a 30 percent drop in business after Imperfect arrived.
A story in The Atlantic suggests that the ugly produce world is "murky," and that when these companies work with big-ag outfits like Dole, it can possibly take produce away from needier recipients such as smaller grocery stores in poor neighborhoods. But it concludes that they can still fill a niche for farmers and consumers.
Imperfect Produce has begun partnering with local food banks to whom they donate their surplus produce; in Dallas, they're partnered with the North Texas Food Bank.