You can’t judge a book by its cover and often those things considered “ugly” are most beautiful on the inside. From French bulldogs to Birkenstocks, everyone is falling in love with inner beauty. Now the food industry is embracing our love of “ugly” and reducing food waste in the process.

Anyone that grows their own vegetables at home knows that they grow in all sorts of wonderful shapes and sizes. A wonky carrot with an extra leg, a bulging eggplant, a knobbly lemon. However, in the commercial food industry, retailers have strict guidelines about the size, shape and appearance of produce that they put on their shelves. Supermarkets often state that this is in response to their customer’s preference for ‘perfection’, but the uniform shape and weight also helps with transportation and packing.

As a result of these standards it is estimated that between 25% and 40% of fresh produce is rejected by supermarkets in Australia. The imperfect fruit and vege that isn’t purchased is often then sold as animal feed for a fraction of the price, or worse still, just thrown away. For local farmers, this is a billion dollar problem.

“Farmers ploughing their crops back into the ground because they don’t meet specifications happens too often. To turn it back into the paddock…it’s a waste, and just another cost for farmers to bear” explains Mike Redmond from Grow SA.

But lately we have seen a growing push for action against food wastage thanks to organisations such as FoodWise and renowned food advocate Jamie Oliver who investigated the issue in his latest TV series, Friday Night Feast. “There’s no difference whatsoever in taste or nutritional value. This is perfectly good food that could and should be eaten by humans”, says Jamie who happily uses ‘ugly’ vegies to whip up tasty dishes.

This growing awareness has not gone unnoticed by the big retailers and last year in France major supermarket chain Intermache launched its ‘Inglorious Vegetables’ campaign, designating a section of the store to discounted ‘ugly’ produce. The program was a huge success and enthusiastically received by customers who snapped up perfectly good fruit and vege for a bargain. Similar projects followed in the UK, and late last year made its way to Australia with Woolworths’ ‘The Odd Bunch’ and Harris Farm’s ‘Imperfect Picks’.

“It’s an opportunity for us to take more of the crop from our growers. They’ll be able to sell more to us directly, leading to less waste”, explained Woolworths senior category manager, Donald Keith.

So next time you’re shopping for a Sunday roast, keep an eye out for wonky carrots and failed potatoes. Not only will you be helping to reduce food waste, you will also be supporting local farmers and reducing your grocery bill. And after all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.