According to the United Nations, 30% the world’s food goes to waste. When taking into account only fruits and vegetables, this percentage rises to 45%. Sometimes, fruits and vegetables are rejected by retailers simply because they do not fit the aesthetic standards expected by the consumer, be they too big, too small, discolored, or deformed. These imperfect fruits and vegetables account for approximately 10% of production and are the most likely to go to waste.
However, a Brazilian startup has devised a way to salvage these odd fruits and vegetables, buying them directly from small producers and selling them to consumers via their online store. Fruta Imperfeita (Imperfect Fruits) began at the end of 2015 as the brainchild of São Paulo-based engineers Roberto Matsuda and Nathalia Inada.
The Fruta Imperfeita online store sells a variety of different sizes of baskets of fruits and/or vegetables, with the cheapest option – the 3kg mixed basket – coming in at just BRL 20, or USD 5.80. Customers also have the option to pay a monthly subscription and receive fresh baskets each week, delivered to their door. The contents of each basket vary from week to week, with the couple working with approximately 14 different fruits and vegetables.
Currently, the service delivers to most of the expanded center of São Paulo, with plans to expand in the future.
After leaving the field of engineering, Rodrigo Matsuda pursued a career in the food business, focusing on small producers of fruits and vegetables. While visiting several small farms around São Paulo, he came across one which supplied corn on the cob to a major supermarket chain. If the vegetables were slightly too big or too small for the supermarkets packaging, they would be thrown away. "Anything that didn’t meet these standards went to waste,” Matsuda told the Brazilian press. “And then I saw that the same thing happened with a number of other products."
"We realized that people didn't even know these products existed," Matsuda explains. "We saw that as well as supporting the farmers, we had to raise the awareness of consumers."
The business launched in November 2015 and after only three months, the news of Fruta Imperfeita's service went viral on the internet, causing the couple’s output to go through the roof – from around 100 orders per week, to over 5,000 orders in a single day. The couple has since opened a brand-new warehouse in order to meet this considerable demand.