We love good food, but we also love food that’s good to the environment – evident from the growing number of organic and sustainability-driven restaurants like Summerhouse or City Hall‘s Salted & Hung, which use locally-sourced, and responsibly fished ingredients. However, the way that the food industry squanders perfectly edible produce has only just entered the periphery of the public’s consciousness.

Fruits and vegetables are especially notorious for undergoing a strict process of “aesthetic filtering” to be sold in supermarkets, given their time-sensitive nature. Thankfully, tiny ventures have begun springing up to tackle the problem. Yeo Pei Shan, one half of the duo behind UglyFood, is in the business of giving a second chance to misunderstood produce.

Bent, Not Broken.

Contrary to popular belief, most rejected produce aren’t anywhere near as spoiled as most would think. Large consumer businesses tend to phase them out for being overstocked or oddly-shaped, resulting in the binning of literal tonnes of produce every year (about 800,000 in 2017, accoring to the NEA). Brussels sprouts, for example, won’t make the cut unless they are small and round enough, and bananas can be rejected simply for being too straight.

What They Do

As the name suggests, Peishan and partner Augustine Tan intend to make the most of the contenders that fall through the cracks during the “cosmetic filtering” process. Through working with stakeholders from all sources (from iJooz machines to wet market stall owners), they gather a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables for both redistribution and re-purposing. “We work closely with RedMart to manage their ‘ugly’ produce. They recognise that external blemishes are usually on the surface,” mentions Peishan.

To date, they’ve rescued almost 90,000 units of produce and developed a range of food products – teas, juices, ice creams and popsicles, with more F&B collaborations on the horizon. “Since we started, we’ve expanded to more agents along the food supply chain. We’ve also branched out into greater variety – from fruit to vegetables and mushrooms and surplus items.”

How You Can Help

It’s not the easiest of things to unlearn wasteful habits. “It takes time to break a habit,” Peishan says. “Before starting UglyFood, I was taught to pick fruits by appearance too.” But it is possible, with a little effort. She further explains that people who strive to be more environmentally conscious put in more effort in practicing mindfulness when picking fresh produce.

From grocers to restaurants, enterprises like Treatsure, Shaw Centre’s Kausmo, and UglyFood are on a mission to tap into the market of ugly food. Aside from the occasional pop-up, you can purchase UglyFood’s products via their online store, or sign up for the various workshops and collabs they have in store. And if you’re in the market for more grocery items, check out these other waste-free grocers and retailers.

From now till early August, stand a chance to redeem their refreshing sorbet popsicles from Orchard Central with a minimum spend of S$50 and above!

Conscious Delights

A food brand that makes exclusive handmade jams using only Southeast Asian produce, Conscious Delights throws a little French flair into the making of fresh jams. Their Little Known range shows off unusual pairings like Blue Pea and chilli in the Royal Wedding, while the Rescued range reshelves surplus fruit that would otherwise be discarded in the form of exquisite spreads. If you’re looking for a housewarming present, the Steamer range of gift sets includes bamboo steamers and an assortment tailored jams.

Visit their website here.

Treatsure

The online grocer that also works in the B2C space, the Treatsure app was released on App and Play Stores by 2018. Their merchant base spans the gamut from industry behemoths Grand Hyatt, Fairmont Hotel and Swissotel the Stamford, to enthusiastic startups like UglyFood and UnPackt. Get your hands on gourmet-level international buffet spreads with their Buffet in a Box, premium snack products, or basic produce like avocados at a steal of the price.

Visit their website here.

Treedots

The Treedots framework is one that works for all parties involved, connecting the dots that get surplus produce from supplier to consumer. Since their opening in 2017, the Treedots call to action is as direct as it gets: sign up as a supplier to get a reimbursement on unsold products, or register as a buyer to get produce at clearance prices. They handle fruit, veg, and even meat products.

Visit their website here.