05 December 2014

Appearance Diversity: disfigured fruit and vegetables. Ugliness dictating worth.

I got to thinking about appearance diversity when seeing some disfigured vegetables on the news last night. Who would have thought the two are related? So, hear (read?) me out. 'Ugly' fruit and vegetables - sold at a discounted price. Woolworths is marketing The Odd Bunch - where fruit and vegetables are personified, cute faces convincing consumers that they're fit for purchase.

No, I'm not offended, nor am I taking myself too seriously, but it made me think about the value of a 'perfect' appearance.

From news.com.au:

"The "ugly" fruit and veg that previously might have ended in the bin will be sold at discount prices in The Odd Bunch campaign launched this week by supermarket giant Woolworths.

At least 25 per cent of fresh produce is estimated to be rejected because of imperfections or cosmetic damage.

Woolworths says it wants to show customers that this food is still delicious and healthy, as well as helping farmers sell more of their crop."

I know I'm probably overthinking things here but I can't help think that this translates into ugliness in humans being worth less. Beauty has value, a higher price. And the 'ugly' produce, once discarded, is now sold to the public, albeit at a lower price.

Supermodels are paid up to $20,000 per show. The Economist states "Physically attractive women and men earn more than average-looking ones, and very plain people earn less." And this finding also translates to fruit and vegetables, it seems. Blemish free, perfectly formed carrots are $1.88 a kilo, and The Odd Bunch's carrots retail at $1.28.

This picture is from a French campaign - Intermarche's Inglorious Food - aimed at reducing food waste.

It's a fantastic campaign, with an outcome I believe in. However I can't help feel that the produce - with human-like appearances, and almost derogatory labels - suggest disfigurement equals grotesqueness, ugliness and failure which literally reduces the produce's value. I wonder what Changing Faces thinks?

Look at this guy! I'd buy him at regular price - more eggplant for my money! I put the question out on Facebook and got a similar discussion.


But I'm hoping that if people can buy 'ugly' produce, they can react more positively to people with visible differences. The catch phrase on Woolworths' website is "What The Odd Bunch lack in looks they make up for in taste and value". And so consumers are asked to look past the physical appearance and give the fruit a go. Which is just what I want in humankind!

It's what's inside that counts.

Yes, I'm always thinking about this stuff! And again, no, I'm not offended!

Do you buy imperfect produce?

Do you think these fruit and vegetables will have an effect on the perception of human appearance?



  1. I totally agree at the message of ugly being worth less.. And it Does make you think though... That the same marketing could've happened with positive names like "the curious carrot", "the original apple", "the enlightened potato" woolworths- I would still buy them regardless of their name - so why the negativity man?

  2. I personally think that this is just a company trying to make more money via something thats usually a waste product.

    It could even be a positive thing, kids might turn their noses up at this fruit because it looks different and a parent could step in and explain that it still taste the same and does the same thing inside your body.

    Theres many things people wouldnt buy because they are "deformed".
    People wouldnt buy clothing with a little bit of damage, they wouldnt buy a car with a scratch and they wouldnt buy a house with a hole in the wall.

    If the fruit being mishaped is sending a message to people that things that look different arent worth the same value, then this happens everyday; not just in fruit.

  3. Love the post. I don't give a darn about 'deformed' vegetables or fruit. As long as they are not old, wizened and unfresh, or mouldy or.... What I intensely dislike in the fruit & veg department are the 'bigger is better' produce. Giant sized capsicums, for instance. Some of us live in small households of one or two people - so I hate it whe,n in places like Aldi, I can't purchase fruit & veg unless it is packaged in sizes too large for me to cope with. I do query the profit motive too - but perhaps enticing buyers to buy is better than seeing stuff wasted. I think we should ask where the grower is in all this - because we do know that they are often brow-beaten as to price and orchardists have dug up whole orchards because canneries don't want their stuff or there is too little money coming to the grower.

  4. like i just shared on Gplus... why not say unique instead of disfigured? I would definitely buy a unique piece of fruit instead and beauty is in the eye of the beholder... like, oh that carrot has an extra bit on it, saves me peeling two, perfect.. Oh Carly, you've done it again.

  5. I totally agree, and I don't mind one bit about "deformed" food. I wrote something on this a couple of months ago, more in a response to the fact that farmers are made to plough horrific amounts of produce into the ground because it doesn't meet society's standards. Awesome post Carly!

  6. I love quirky fruit. But then I love quirky humans too. I can't believe that this is something that supermarkets actually spend money promoting. I think sometimes I assume people are better than they are. Hearing your experiences has certainly confirmed that. x
    Is it just me or is that carrot a little pornographic?

  7. I very much think that the message that is being touted here is indeed that less than perfect means less value and I think the media and genetic modification has a lot to do with this. We are so driven by the construct of perfection that we naturally leave fruit and vegetables that look less than perfect. Noticing the wastage, shops are now discounting them, thus reinforcing the message. I am pretty sure that in the 1800s and before people really didn't give a toss how their fruit and vegetables looked. It is a ludicrous notion, frankly. The underlying message, in my opinion, is far more sinister than it first seems. I know that people will say I should lighten up, but I am so over this notion of perfection and this is just another way of reinforcing that construct.

  8. It would be great if they didn't have to discount the price and just encourage people to buy unique vegetables and fruit instead? By discounting it is saying it's 'worth less'.
    Food for thought! ;) x

  9. Harris farm did it first, it's awesome!!!

  10. One of the main reasons I don't buy fruit at Woolworths is that our local fruit shop has a much better range of produce at different prices and its not all perfect. I hate that the big supermarkets dictate the size and suchlike of what they will sell. Our fruit shop apples are not perfect to look at and I love seeing the marks that make you realise that they came from a tree. The big supermarkets have practically killed the NSW banana growers as the bananas they grow don't fit the supermarkets mould.

  11. Very interesting. When I grew up my Dad grew most of our vegetables. I was used to seeing two-pronged (or even three-pronged) carrots and parsnips, bumpy potatoes and the like - and as kids we were fascinated with the variety of shapes. Taste was certainly king.


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