Compass Group USA and its Bon Appetit Management Co. unit have announced the launch of Imperfectly Delicious Produce (IDP), an initiative aimed at using fruits and vegetables that have traditionally been left in fields to rot because they are of less than required size or shape.
Starting in May 2014, the companies successfully piloted the program at locations in California, Pennsylvania, and Washington State, and are now rolling it out in Oregon and Washington, D.C., with plans to expand it to the rest of the country. More than 10,000 pounds of 31 varieties of fruits and vegetables, from misshapen organic carrots and leeks to loose kale leaves, were recovered during just the first few months of the pilot program.
"It feels really good to know that all this produce that we've been pulling off to the side and sending to the compost pile has a home now," says Tim Terpstra, of 250-acre Ralph's Greenhouse in Mt. Vernon, Wash., which has supplied crooked carrots, fingerling potatoes, and undersized leeks to Bon Appetit's Taste Restaurant at the Seattle Art Museum and various Seattle-area universities and corporate cafes operated by Bon Appetit and Compass subsidiary Eurest through the Imperfectly Delicious program. (see video).
"When I visited a large farm during harvest, I couldn't believe how much produce was being left in the fields," says Bon Appetit CEO Fedele Bauccio. "I asked our team to fix that. Too much energy and work goes into growing food to waste it."
"We're pleased to be able to take this program all across the country," adds Christine Seitz, vice president of culinary for Compass Group USA Business Excellence. "Creating a new supply chain for a product such as inconsistently sized organic Yukon gold potatoes that no one previously wanted isn't easy, but it pays dividends in all sorts of ways."
Rolling out the program will take time, the companies admit. Each regional supply chain has its own quirks and no large-scale system exists for rescuing produce, so in each new region they will have to work with distributors and their growers to learn what they have available and figure out how to plug it into their specific existing processes and ordering systems.