Updated 2:37 p.m.
Watch out, Philly. More ugly fruits and veggies are coming to town.
On Monday, a new produce facility opens across the river in South Jersey, ushering in the first week a new grocery delivery service will be available in Philadelphia.
It’s a model unlike many popular food subscription services, because almost all the goods you’ll receive will be…unusual looking.
San Francisco-based Imperfect Produce salvages crops and groceries that would otherwise be thrown away — either because there are too many of them, or because they don’t look pretty enough to sell at the store.
“It could be size, it could be coloring, it could be scarring, or it could just be surplus,” Neil Neufeld, head of operations at Imperfect Produce, told Billy Penn. “Yesterday I got these oranges that looked like they were the size of a lemon. They were adorable.”
The company buys up unsightly veggies for cheap and delivers them to customers at a discounted rate, preventing food waste. Surplus is donated to organizations fighting food insecurity.
Though this is Imperfect’s first foray into the region, other services like this do already exist. As part of the Full City Challenge initiative with the Economy League last year, Billy Penn highlighted FoodMaven, a food rescue program that’s proven successful in Colorado. Locally, Philly-based Misfits Market has been offering a similar program since last summer, and has grown its workforce to more than 200 employees in the city.
Anti-hunger nonprofit Philabundance also does food rescue — to the tune of 15 million tons last year — and a new partnership with Reading Terminal Market and the Food Connect app will help it salvage even more, at the retail level.
The Imperfect team touts having saved 40 million pounds of produce across the country since being founded in 2015. It sells the fruits and vegetables back to consumers at what it says is around 30 percent of the cost of regular groceries. You can start placing orders online now.
Fresh produce on your stoop, guaranteed
With Imperfect, you can pick from a variety of box sizes. The smallest, 7 to 9 pounds of produce, starts at $11 a week plus a $5 delivery fee. SNAP recipients are eligible for boxes at a reduced cost. You can customize the mix of fruits and vegetables inside, and decide whether you want them once a week or every other week. (The Misfits boxes are priced comparably, starting at $19 for 10 to 12 pounds.)
And yes, even from its California headquarters, the Imperfect team is aware that stoop thieves are always lurking in Philly.
“If someone calls and they didn’t get their box…we’ll bring a new box the next day,” operations head Neufeld said. “We’re a very customer-focused business.”
The Philadelphia operation will employ 11 people to start, with the hope of expanding to 30 or 40 full-timers as more customers sign up. This Imperfect joins 23 other locations in the United States, including Seattle, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas and Milwaukee. The company told Fast Company that it expects to be in 30 markets within the year — and is also piloting adding grains and other rejected non-produce staples to its boxes.
“We’re really excited to come to town,” Neufeld said of the Philly launch. “It’s one of our bigger markets that we’re entering, different than Milwaukee or Indianapolis. It’s just a bigger city for us.”
The company will mostly source produce out of California, though Neufeld said he’s in talks with Philly-area growers to start sourcing locally, including Bright Farms, the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and the Rice Fruit Company.
And when there’s extra homely harvest, Imperfect plans to donate the ugly foods to food bank in South Jersey (since that’s where the warehouse is located).