Seeing Beauty in Ugly Produce: Do Ugly Produce Retailers Reduce Food Waste?

41 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2023 Last revised: 15 Mar 2024

See all articles by Zheng Han

Zheng Han

DePaul University

Bin Hu

University of Texas at Dallas - Department of Information Systems & Operations Management

Milind Dawande

University of Texas at Dallas - Department of Information Systems & Operations Management

Date Written: March 11, 2024

Abstract

Ugly produce refers to cosmetically-unconventional yet taste- and nutrition-wise perfectly edible produce. Advocates of ugly produce retailers claim that they help reduce food waste. Skeptics, however, argue that ugly produce is often not wasted but meets alternative demands such as from restaurants and processed food manufacturers. Given such alternative demands, do ugly produce retailers reduce food waste? We model an agricultural cooperative producing, pricing and selling produce to a retailer and an alternative buyer, and find that the retailer selling ugly produce still strictly reduces food waste. However, doing so also generally reduces the retailer’s profit, which explains traditional grocery chains’ hesitancy to carry ugly produce. Fortunately, we find that a dedicated ugly produce retailer competing with a traditional retailer yields the same food waste reduction. Therefore, whereas traditional retailers could but would not carry ugly produce and help reduce food waste, ugly produce startups can willingly play this role in their stead. This research sheds light on the ongoing debate about whether ugly produce retailers reduce food waste and explains the development of the ugly produce movement. Our findings justify the sustainability value of ugly produce retailers—especially dedicated ugly produce startups—and inform the collaboration strategies of non-profit organizations with farmers and/or retailers to reduce food waste and combat global hunger and climate change.

Suggested Citation

Han, Zheng and Hu, Bin and Dawande, Milind, Seeing Beauty in Ugly Produce: Do Ugly Produce Retailers Reduce Food Waste? (March 11, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4349504 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4349504

Zheng Han

DePaul University ( email )

1 East Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

Bin Hu (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Dallas - Department of Information Systems & Operations Management ( email )

P.O. Box 830688
Richardson, TX 75083-0688
United States

Milind Dawande

University of Texas at Dallas - Department of Information Systems & Operations Management ( email )

P.O. Box 830688
Richardson, TX 75083-0688
United States

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