Demand grows for ‘wonky’ fruit and vege service

Angus Simms with Lisa and Tony Dale-Low from Waikawa Fresh.
Photo: Supplied

A subscription-based produce company that saves so-called “wonky” fruit and vegetables from heading to the landfill says demand has doubled in the past month alone.

Wonky Box sells oddly shaped or excess produce sourced from local growers to about 2000 customers in Wellington and Kāpiti Coast.

Co-founder Angus Simms said about 75 percent of their produce was sourced directly from Horowhenua District, but they worked with growers across the length of the North Island, from Northland to Gisborne.

He said the perfectly good produce they sold would otherwise go to waste, as it did not meet strict appearance standards.

“It’s simply because they don’t meet the market specifications for the export standards that have been set,” he said.

“So produce could be of a particular size, or shape, or might have a slight blemish, and really petty things, and as a result they’re not offered to the supermarket shelves.”

The Wonky Box

The Wonky Box
Photo: Supplied

Simms said the company had seen demand for its boxes double in the past month as the cost of living increased.

Figures from international e-commerce company Picodi this week showed fruit and vegetable costs in New Zealand rose almost 16 percent since the start of the year, the 12th-highest rise out of 94 countries ranked.

Simms said despite the produce’s “wonky” appearance, it was still top-notch.

“At the end of the day, it all tastes the same on the inside,” he said.

“We never sell produce that’s towards its use-by date or at the end of its shelf life, it’s always fresh produce and it’s arguably fresher because we’re sourcing the majority of it from growers directly.

“It’ll just simply be the size, the shape, it might be a slightly funny color, but at all times, very fresh and of course, still delicious.”

Simms said the growers they worked with, like everyone else across the horticulture sector, were feeling the pinch of soaring costs for fertilizer, labor and inflation – and being able to reduce waste helped.

The Fresh Grower

Photo: Supplied

“The challenges that we’re facing is supply, predominantly, the demand for the box isn’t so much of an issue,” he said.

“It’s comforting to see that there’s consumers who are willing to give up those sorts of standards, in terms of fresh produce, and go for the tag two varieties, the odd-looking varieties, especially as the cost of living is increasing, and the cost of food at the supermarkets is increasing, and they’re just simply looking for alternatives.

“The demand is definitely there, the challenges that we see are in supply and distribution, at times, but we always seem to get through it though.

Simms said the company was working closely with growers to increase supply and reduce waste.

“A lot of our growers have told us that, their practices have become more sustainable as a result of supplying to Wonky Box and that there’s ultimately less waste left on their farm.

“Also, with our service being a subscription, we can provide fairly consistent demand to our growers. So if they know that, come their times when they’re going to pull from the ground or when they’re going to crop, any potential varieties where they might have a surplus, or where they might have misshapen or second grade produce, they can almost forecast where that might be able to go, ie us, because our volumes are fairly consistent, but also growing. “