Perfectly imperfect

Tesco cucumbers

(Not) so nice!
The wonky veg – packaged carrots, parsnips and cucumbers – that is sold at some Tesco stores (UK supermarket chain) probably wouldn’t win a beauty contest. But, starting in 2016, this is precisely what is currently on offer at 200 selected supermarkets, targeting customers who are price-conscious, environment-conscious and socially aware. The products are indeed a bit wonky, come in different colours and are occasionally on the small side – qualities which most of us would regard as unattractive, so that we wouldn’t necessarily make them our first choice. However, these products are perfectly alright and indeed edible. In fact, quite often they get thrown away unnecessarily.                                


Similar pilot projects have also been launched by other supermarket chains, such as Asda and Morrison’s as they, too, want to reduce their volumes of food waste. Photo: Morrison’s

The supermarket giant actually started its first wonky fruit campaign a while ago, in 2013, when it wanted to encourage more sustainability and social responsibility. However, the sale of wonky fruit and veg isn’t Tesco’s only project on this issue. The group has generally been working hard to achieve a marked reduction in its 50,000 tonnes of food waste, created annually by its stores. According to Tesco’s own estimates, 30,000 tonnes of this total is still edible. Working together with the FareShare FoodCloud network, any surplus food that cannot be sold at a supermarket is given to local charities.                

Wonky foods

Consumers, too, are happy about the new wonky product line with its good value for money. Sales figures have been rising since the beginning of the initiative. Photo: Tesco PLC

Global awareness
The new product range is Tesco’s response to a global trend which has been at the focus of the packaging industry for several years now. According to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost each year.                   

French Supermarkt

Photo: Consommateurs au supermarché Luc Legay /

France has even taken this one step further. It is the first country in the world where, since February 2016, all large supermarkets with a sales space of over 400 square metres are under a legal obligation to give away any unsold food that is close to or past its sell-by date. Photo: Consommateurs au supermarché Luc Legay /

One way to solve the dilemma is through packaging that protects the product from getting spoiled, and this is currently the purpose of a joint international project set up by FAO, UNEPand Messe Düsseldorf. Operating as the SAVE FOOD initiative and together with industry and various organisations, its members support projects and research work that helps to reduce food losses and waste.


Innovative Verpackungen

Innovative packaging can improve the shelf life of food and thus reduce loss and waste. Photo: Supermarket, Ricardo,

Well protected – thanks to the right packaging
The most basic function of any packaging is to protect the product it contains. And this is something it has done quite reliably for over 5,000 years, regardless of the material. Yet today’s innovative packaging clearly goes one step further. So-called active packaging, for instance, regulates the level of humidity within the packaging, thus preventing the formation of germs. Integrated absorbers can neutralise undesirable putrefaction gases, and intelligent nano-sensors on the packaging can even indicate whether the product is still fresh and edible.                

Date Labeling

Some fruit and veg wouldn’t win a beauty contest but is still perfectly alright. Quite often, though, it ends up in the bin. Photo: Infografik, FutureFood2050

Love Food – Hate Waste: A campaign by the UK supermarket chain Asda against food waste