TORONTO -- Loblaw Companies Limited (TSX:L) has launched a program to sell blemished, misshapen or undersized produce under the No Name Naturally Imperfect brand.
Bags of Naturally Imperfect apples and potatoes are already being sold in select grocery stores across Ontario and Quebec and cost up to 30 per cent less than other fruits and vegetables.
In the past, the produce selected for Naturally Imperfect products might have been used for juices, sauces, soups or dehydration.
"If you were to grow produce in your backyard there's a lot that would grow that wouldn't look as pretty as what you would see in a grocery store. And Mother Nature doesn't grow everything perfectly," said Dan Branson, Loblaw senior director responsible for produce, floral and garden items.
A lower-grade Red Delicious apple might have only 50 to 60 per cent colour, with the rest of the fruit a lighter shade of green. There might also be some scarring.
"I'd like to think if somebody were to take a No Name Naturally Imperfect apple and put it right beside a perfect No. 1 apple and closed their eyes and eat it, there would be no difference," Branson said Thursday.
Bulk and bagged potatoes are typically within a specific size range, with bigger or smaller spuds undesirable.
"Potatoes will often go into food service, but the smaller potatoes, it's sometimes a real question what happens with those. So we're taking some of those smaller potatoes and this is where we're presenting it into a consumer pack for people to take home," he added.
Branson said the lower-cost produce "improves accessibility to fresh fruits and vegetables for some people that may not normally be able to afford to have that access."
It's also a win for producers. In the past substandard fruit and vegetables often weren't harvested and would go to waste.
Naturally Imperfect products are already available in some Maxi, No Frills and Real Canadian Superstore outlets.
Loblaw is looking at rolling out the Naturally Imperfect brand nationally by the end of the year, with an expanded assortment of items available.
Stores will continue to offer items that are safe to eat but might be close to expiry at a deeper discount.