Food and Water

Could 'ugly’ fruit and vegetables help solve world hunger?

Carrots grown in France are displayed at the vegetables section at the Carrefour supermarket in Lille, France, November 5, 2015.

Could wonky fruit and veg help feed the world? Image: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Food and Water?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Food Security is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Food Security

About a third of all the food we produce each year is wasted - and more fruit and veg is thrown away than any other food group.

Our obsession with 'perfectly' sized produce is, according to many, one of the primary causes of this staggering level of waste.

Could ‘ugly’ fruit and veg help ensure everyone has enough to eat?

What is ‘ugly’ fruit and veg?

‘Ugly’ refers to fruit and vegetables rejected by retailers because they don’t meet exact specifications. This could be because they’re over- or under-sized, cracked, blemished, or misshapen in other ways.

The argument goes that as consumers we demand perfectly sized and shaped food.

However, in the EU and US, some supermarkets are beginning to sell ‘ugly’ items alongside other produce. British supermarket giant Asda has gone as far as selling a ‘wonky veg box’. The retailer claims the box contains enough vegetables to provide a family of four with a week’s worth of meals.

But, for campaigner Tristram Stuart, “it would be far better to simply relax the standards.”

So is ‘ugly’ food the answer?

It’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Anything that can be done to reduce the vast amount of global food waste has to be a good thing. With around 800 million people going hungry every day, according to the FAO, meeting our food supply needs requires swift action. This is becoming increasingly important as the global population swells.

Wasting food also has an impact on the environment. Wasted, uneaten and rejected food squanders the water, seeds, fuel, land, etc. needed to produce it. According to the UN, every year food that is produced, but not eaten, consumes the same volume of water as the annual flow of the Volga river. If it were a country, food waste would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Ultimately, accepting imperfect fruit and veg is an important part of a much-needed change in habits and attitudes. Encouraging people to think about their food consumption and waste, such as how they plan their weekly grocery shopping, what they throw out and the quest for perfectly shaped carrots, will have a positive impact on the amount of produce we discard.

If we are to ensure global food security, this is an important step.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

The Horn of Africa's deep groundwater could be a game-changer for drought resilience

Bradley Hiller, Jude Cobbing and Andrew Harper

May 16, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum