What is wonky fruit?
What is wonky fruit?
When we say ‘wonky fruit’, we often refer to the fruit that many stores say no to because of strict grading processes. The quality and taste of the wonky fruit is just as delicious, but it’s at risk of going to waste for reasons like not being the right shape or size. Surplus fruit can also be at risk of going to waste, for example, when crop production exceeds demand and there's more fruit than a retailer is willing to purchase.
Why is wonky fruit often at risk of going to waste?
Through research and conversations with Feedback, the pioneering UK based food waste charity, we have identified two key drivers of food waste on farms, both of which are rooted in the irresponsible buying behaviours of supermarkets and other major market players:
- Supermarket procurement is guided by stringent grading requirements. (Supermarket Scorecard – Feedback, 2018).
- Fruit and vegetables that do not meet premium grade specifications with strict standards for appearance, weight and colour rarely ever make it onto grocery shelves.
- The nutritional quality and value of this wonky fruit is exactly the same for the consumer and requires the same economic input from the farmer to grow.
- As supermarkets have over 85% of the market share of UK grocery shelves (McKevitt, 2017), this often leaves farmers without compensation and with no market to sell their wonky fruit to.
- By working with Dash, farmers know that they have a customer that judges on taste, not looks. In advance of the growing season, we agree to take wonky fruit from their farms at fair market value to ensure that it does not go to waste.
Why is surplus fruit often at risk of going to waste?
When speaking with farmers, we realised they were often under pressure to produce more fruit and vegetables than they could sell.
This is due to what Feedback has identified as “a climate of fear” in which supermarkets hold the power to switch supplier if the farmer fails to meet their volume requirements or cosmetic standards. This situation is a consequence of the UK grocery sector being dominated by a small number of retailers who wield an excess of power in the market whereby farmers cannot afford to lose their buyers.
In the unpredictable world of crop growing, this has forced farmers towards a policy of overproduction in order to maintain key contracts (Farm Waste Report – Feedback, 2018). In the case of a good harvest, the surplus crop is at risk of being left wasted in the field with no market to serve"e.
This is a waste of perfectly good food. At Dash, we speak to farmers before the growing season and agree to buy any surplus fruit and vegetables at a fair market price. This gives our farmers assurance that their crops and hard work will rightfully end up with consumers.
How much food is wasted in the world?
In a landmark 2011 report, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 1.3 billion tons of the world’s edible food – one third of global production – is wasted every year. This amount of perfectly good, nutritious food could feed three billion people. And it’s a worsening problem - with a 2021 report from WWF revising this figure upwards to 2.5 billion tonnes, or 40% of all food produced.
The amount of food wasted in the world is an environmental disaster due to the huge volume of greenhouse gases emitted through its production and distribution life cycle. Consequently, reducing food waste is deemed by some researchers to be the third most effective weapon we have in the fight against climate change (Project Drawdown, 2017).
How much food is wasted in the UK?
In the UK an estimated 9.5 million tonnes of edible food waste was thrown away in 2018, with a value of over £19 billion and a footprint of more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (House of Lords, 2021). These figures are once food has entered the supply chain, however we know there is further need to tackle primary level waste on farms, with wastage levels of 10-16% in a typical year (Farm Waste Report – Feedback, 2018).
Growing up on farms, Dash co-founders Jack & Alex witnessed the cause and effect of UK food waste first hand and felt compelled to act. As the idea for a new range of unsweetened sparkling waters took form, it felt natural to use the product as a vehicle with which to do this. So, in 2017 they launched Dash Water – infused sparkling water made with wonky fruit; the bent, curved and misshapen produce which others say no to simply because they are judged on looks, not taste.
Dash’s Wonky Fruit Mission
At Dash, our mission to tackle endemic food waste is twofold:
- To raise awareness of the wasteful wonky fruit issue, and to highlight that imperfection should be celebrated. We want to bring an end to irresponsible supermarket buying behaviours and see delicious fruit and vegetables of all shapes and sizes in supermarket aisles.
- To lead the way by ensuring that in our own drinks we are using fruit and vegetables that are rejected by supermarkets. We give the farmers we work with peace of mind that their wonky or surplus fruit will end up on shop shelves.
We would never claim to be the only people who use wonky fruit in this way. However, our aim is to encourage consumers to demand that it becomes the norm rather than the exception; to rebel against the agenda set by supermarkets in order to prevent the catastrophic levels of food waste we're seeing worldwide.
We know that our mission to raise awareness could ultimately have a more significant impact than the amount of fruit and vegetables that we alone can put to good use.
Nevertheless, we believe that actions speak louder than words, which is why we hope to empower others to have a positive impact through the example that we set. It is only by working together and at a national and global scale that we will enact meaningful change in the fight against food waste.
We are by no means perfect ourselves, and we have a long way to go in our journey towards crafting a more sustainable future for consumerism. But we believe that small changes can add up to make a big difference, and we encourage everyone to join us on the journey, one curly cucumber and lopsided lemon at a time. Find out more by reading our 2022 impact report or shop our wonky sparkling water today.