An Alberta produce distributor has launched a line of misshapen fruits and vegetables called 'the misfits' and the produce is flying off the shelves.

Mike Meinhardt with RedHat Co-operative spoke on the Calgary Eyeopener about the idea, which came from a store in France.

The Misfits

Red Hat Co-op is now offering 'misfit' vegetables at a discount. (RedHat Co-op)

"A grocery store called Intermarché did a program called the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables and they did it across the country," said Meinhardt. "It was eggplant, clementines, you know all kinds of produce that just looked funny."

Meinhardt said that typically five to 10 per cent of greenhouse-grown vegetables will look funny and the grower is the one who has to figure out what to do with it.

"It's just as fresh, it's just as nutritious," Meinhardt said. "It just looks funny."

The RedHat Co-op packages up the unsightly produce and sells them for 30 per cent less than their more attractive counterparts. 

The company had produce in four Calgary Safeway stores for the last month. For the next three weeks, the vegetables will available at the four northeast Calgary Co-op locations, as well as select Co-ops in Medicine Hat and Taber.

Conversation on food waste needed

"We have long English cucumbers, mini cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes," said Meinhardt. "Consumers then have the option to take a look at this and say, 'You know what? I'll save a bit of money on my food bill and cut the pepper up and nobody is going to know the difference.'"

The vegetables have been available for several weeks at 11 grocery stores in southern Alberta and Meinhardt said it has received a huge amount of attention.

"People became aware that we were doing it and they were driving past (their own) grocery stores to go to the test grocery stores," Meinhardt said.

Meinhardt said he is most excited about initiating a conversation about food waste.

"If we have a more global conversation about food waste and people make a little bit less pasta for dinner so it's not sitting in the fridge for three days before you throw it out, or if they buy a little bit less and make sure that they consume what their eating, I think even in a bigger picture we are having a good conversation," he said.

"We are the first to launch this in North America and all of a sudden we are hearing from the stone fruit people in B.C., 'Well, we can do this' and we are hearing from the carrot guys in southern Alberta, 'Well, jeez we have two legged carrots, we can sell those,' so I think the future of the misfits is going to be 10, 12, 15 different items."