By Rachel Koning Beals
Here’s how to navigate apps like Misfits Market, Imperfect Foods and their rivals to divert perfectly edible meat, seafood and produce from the landfill to your fridge.
What do we recycle?
The expensive staple that is central to our very existence: food.
About 30% of food in US grocery stores is thrown away, according to data from the USDA and waste management company RTS, which compiled a comprehensive report on food waste in the United States. Retail stores in the United States generate an estimated 16 billion pounds of food waste each year, thrown away for reasons ranging from imperfections in the products, an impending expiration date (usually set with plenty of margin) or the wrong color of the lid. over a pot of perfectly good pasta sauce.
That’s where food recycling delivery apps come in, such as two of the biggest, Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods. They act as intermediaries between grocery stores, restaurants and wholesalers and mainly door-to-door buyers.
“We believe there is an incredible opportunity to take food waste and food inefficiency and turn them into value offerings for the end consumer,” Abhi Ramesh, CEO and co-founder of Misfits Market, told MarketWatch. four years old. Misfits started with less than perfect products and has expanded to include meat, seafood, bakery, dairy, deli meats and pantry items. They operate in the lower 48 states and they see growth in beauty, health, and other household necessities.
There’s no doubt that “recycled” meat and seafood can be a harder sell than an undersized apple.
Ramesh has an idea: If a grocery store is running a special on rib eye, for example, typical sirloin shoppers might opt for the sale cut instead, leaving too much sirloin in the butcher’s till. The store may also reduce the sirloin, but ultimately substituting one cut for another may leave too much perishable stock. That’s where a Misfits could step in with their icy fast delivery service.
Or take salmon. US retail standards require a perfectly rectangular net. This means that after cutting at the wholesaler, the leftovers are nutrient-rich, but slightly rounded fillet ends – soon to be packaged for Misfits at a bargain price. “I eat them every week,” Ramesh says.
Ramesh said shoppers can expect to pay up to 20% to 50% less for their Misfits order than they would at their retail grocery store. That could be particularly attractive right now, given soaring food inflation and rising gasoline receipts eating away at more of the household budget.
Promotions and sales also pop up from time to time on Misfits and Imperfect Foods, which includes a plant-based section, its own branded line, like ground coffee, and wellness products.
Ramesh said while inflation is impacting all businesses, including his own, he has “fewer touch points” along the supply chain for higher prices to be applied. “It could be as little as farm, distribution center and customer,” he said. “Inflation affects us less than it would impact a traditional grocery store. And so if prices go up 15% there, they’ll only go up a few percent with us for that reason.”
Food resale sites also point out that expensive waste in your own fridge is less likely when you buy with speed in mind and because you’re more likely to run out of delivery rather than overbuy in the store.
Additionally, sites sometimes buy directly from wholesalers or producers. Resale sites come in when the much longer journey in the supply chain of fruits and vegetables destined for a grocery store means they should arrive without much time for storage and sale. Instead, producers or wholesalers will sell this product to “imperfection” companies. Sometimes a particular fruit crop needs to be harvested early to allow for transport, storage and time to sell. Underripe offerings can be all you can find in the store, and “upcycling” sites think they can do better.
For example, Misfits Market currently offers its seasonal just-in-time peaches and apricots, with additional training on storing, preparing and cooking stone fruits.
How to find and order ‘unsuitable, imperfect’ food
Rotating inventory and many standards number in the hundreds at Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods, as well as rival Hungry Harvest. The sites allow you to easily recall your regular order, then users can add or subtract, depending on what is offered.
Buying these discounts shouldn’t be seen as a big compromise. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay is teaming up with Misfits on recipe ideas, as he and others work to standardize extending the life of our foods.
Imperfect Foods has a running counter on its site. To date, he has saved 166,422,948 pounds of total food from the trash. The company aims to reduce its operations to net zero emissions by 2030.
As for Misfits, its packing boxes are 100% recyclable and it is testing ecological insulation that protects groceries in transit. In hot weather, he uses non-toxic ice packs made from a water-based formula. Instead of plastic product bags, a herbal bag with a resin compound is replaced.
Read: ‘Hunger is not a scarcity problem’: This startup is diverting excess food from executive dining rooms to hungry people
Be aware of…
Sites offering near-stale and less-than-perfect foods often depend on what’s available, so a favorite brand or packaged quantity may not be as plentiful as what you find when searching the aisles of grocery stores or at traditional online grocery retailers. , such as Walmart(WMT) or Amazon(AMZN).
Not all delivery sites will include a zip code, although Misfits is especially proud of the third-party delivery relationships (think US Postal Service, UPS, etc.) it has to get its goods into the hands of the suburban and rural buyers as well as population concentrations.
Buyers concerned about the carbon footprint of delivery and other sustainability issues will want to seek a site that is fully transparent about how they package, the emissions involved, their inclusion of renewable fuel fleet (QCLN) vehicles and their they prefer bulk deliveries which reduce overall travel time or stick to smaller journeys.
Food resale sites have similarities and differences to food box delivery programs direct from the producer. Such programs can eliminate some processing and transportation waste and provide buyers with freshness straight from the field and a sense of ownership at the harvest. For Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), for example, members buy a share of the farm’s production before each growing season. However, these programs do not target and reduce the food waste of the massive grocery and restaurant industries in the same way resale sites do.
Some academic experts who track the food supply chain have questioned whether food resale apps are viewed disproportionately by tech-savvy people with large disposable incomes. They say that despite the numbers tracking food waste, the system is doing a pretty good job of getting discounted wholesale products from smaller grocery stores that more low-income people can access. And, they say, the food industry often turns bruised fruits and vegetables into sauces and other products.
Misfits, for its part, aims to eradicate food deserts in America by 2025.
More The Upcycler: Think twice before trading in your old smartphone or tablet – you could make more money ‘upcycling’ on resale sites
Editor’s Note: The Upcycler column aims to help you do more with less, save or earn extra money, grow your creative side, and reduce your carbon footprint.
Upcycling and the Buy Nothing movement is about reusing objects for practical or aesthetic purposes, or extending their usefulness and diverting them from landfill. Additionally, our column will explore the benefits of fixing or upgrading more of what we already have; exploit free or deeply discounted goods and services that may be life changing; and travel in less expensive, intrusive and consuming ways.
After all, if we can “upcycle” more of our time, income, and peace of mind, everything might feel brand new.
Do you have your own recycling ideas or dilemmas? Contact us on Twitter @RachelKBeals or by email at [email protected]
-Rachel Koning Beals
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