Nothing strange about Countdown’s eco-friendly 'Odd Bunch' fruit and veges

Odd Bunch produce are now getting a well-deserved second life, which is a win for the environment, shoppers and growers who get to see their crop consumed. Photo credit: Countdown

A move by Countdown to sell “odd” looking fruit and vegetables at a discount price is being embraced by both growers and shoppers alike. 

The supermarket introduced the Odd Bunch range around two years ago after being inspired by similar initiatives overseas. 

The range includes produce that, despite being perfectly edible, would have been dumped by growers in the past due to having blemishes or an "odd" shape.

Countdown’s head of produce, Steve Sexton, says the reaction to the initiative has been "really, really positive", with some shoppers appreciating the environmental aspect of minimising food waste and others just happy to snap up a bargain. 

"Odd Bunch is like any other fruit and vegetable apart from that it looks a bit odd, but it tastes the same," says Sexton.

The initiative is the first of its kind in New Zealand and follows a shift in priorities for consumers. Although traditionally there was a demand for produce to look perfect and blemish-free, concerns around sustainability have increased in recent years and more and more consumers "have been calling out for a change in what they see".

"There’s been some relaxation on what a product needs to look like in retail," says Sexton.

Although a little education is sometimes needed to convince people the fruit and veges taste exactly the same as their prettier counterparts, for the most part, Sexton says, consumers just "get it".

"In general, I think consumers are becoming less concerned about perfection and more concerned about sustainability."

And the upswing in awareness around sustainability couldn’t come at a more crucial time. According to Love Food Hate Waste, the average Kiwi home wastes $644 worth of food each year, with more than 157,000 tonnes of perfectly edible food thrown out by households annually.

Giving "ugly" produce a second life is not just a win for the environment and consumers; growers are seeing the benefits too. 

Countdown's head of produce Steve Sexton. Photo credit: Countdown

"They put their heart and soul into growing product so it's nice for them, and us, to see as much of that crop utilised, sold and consumed as humanly possible," says Sexton.

The produce is sourced from all over New Zealand. Apples, pears and root crops such as kumara, carrots and onions, are available year-round, while produce such as strawberries and cherries are seasonally available. 

The initiative comes as part of a broader strategy by the supermarket chain to reduce waste and lessen its environmental footprint. Countdown supermarkets are working towards zero food waste to landfill, with 100 per cent of their stores having a food rescue or diversion programme in place. Last year it donated around $3.8 million of surplus food to The Salvation Army, food rescue charities and local food banks, as well as giving $2.5 million worth of food to farmers as food scraps for their animals. 

The Odd Bunch range is available in all 180 Countdown stores nationwide. Click here for details. 

This article is created for Countdown