Hy-Vee Embraces ‘Ugly’ Produce

Hy-Vee is fully on board the “ugly" produce movement with its adoption of Robinson Fresh’s Misfits line in nearly all of its 242 grocery stores across eight Midwestern states.

In addition to helping its customers enjoy imperfect fruits and vegetables at a lower cost, the addition of Misfits also complements Hy-Vee's food waste diversion efforts.

Hy-Vee offers four to six Misfit items weekly, based on what's seasonally available, at an average 30 percent lower price. Some of the line’s items include peppers, cucumbers, squash, apples and tomatoes. Customers can find the prominently displayed Misfits bins and signage in the produce section of their local Hy-Vee store.

“The beauty of this program is that the produce tastes the same and is of the same high quality; it just looks different,” said John Griesenbrock, VP of produce/HealthMarkets at West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee. “As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. The same is true for Misfits fruits and vegetables.”

Griesenbrock added. “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.”

Misfits dovetails well with Hy-Vee’s demonstrated efforts to reduce food waste at all levels, from the supply chain to distribution and disposal. In recent years, the retailer has been recognized for its food waste donation and diversion efforts in the communities it operates. More than 220 Hy-Vee stores have implemented composting operations, and collectively they diverted 17.8 million pounds of food waste in fiscal year 2016.

By embracing less cosmetically pleasing produce, Hy-Vee is further aligning with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently announced goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030, Griesenbrock noted.

“We understand that there is product left in the field because farmers don’t think there’s a market for it,” said Hunter Winton, general manager at Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh. “With the Misfits program, farmers have an outlet to sell more produce, and customers have an opportunity to save money and help reduce waste.”

Some of the current Misfits offered by Hy-Vee include mandarin oranges, green and red peppers, limes, and lemons. 

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