Grocery shopping can be a hassle, especially if you are overwhelmed with work, and your inner demons tell you to go to McDonald’s for a Big Mac instead of cooking at home. Once in a while (frequency differs on a case-by-case basis), these demons will lose against your consciousness, and you will find yourself walking into a supermarket to buy some “healthy food.”
While we all would agree that fresh vegetables and fruits are essential to the health of our body and mind, we usually do not pick any produce. Even though most of us might not prefer to identify as dedicated grocery shoppers, we have clear preferences when it comes to choosing the produce from the display: We do not go for the ugly ones.
“We have been conditioned by the society to think that everything needs to look perfect” says Ben Chesler — one of the founders of Imperfect. Chesler and his team started the Imperfect Produce initiative that specifically targets and markets cosmetically-challenged produce. Let us tell you what constitutes a cosmetically challenged produce, and you will be surprised to hear that an imperfect produce does not mean that the fruit or the vegetable is rotten. Any produce that defies our perception of what that produce should look like can be considered cosmetically challenged. In other words, a potato that looks like a pear or a pear that looks like a carrot is pretty much challenged. These imperfect pieces do not embody the beauty you want to be exposed to before you start your digestion. Interestingly enough, Chesler assures us that once the produce is in your mouth — it actually tastes the same: ugly or not.
Our perception defines our experiences, influenced by certain prejudices and preconceptions in our brain. While the brain might appear to be a stubborn piece of flesh sometimes, it turns out that it is penetrable enough to dismantle some personal dogmas. According to Chesler, we expect our vegetables and fruits to be perfect just as we expect human bodies to be perfect and even fit a golden ratio. He adds that this has a lot to do with the fact that as a society, we have associated imperfect physical appearance with incapacity and incompetence.
“If something or someone looks a little bit different, we immediately assume there is something wrong with it/them” says the Imperfect founder. When asked how his initiative fights against this societal expectation, his answer was simple: They either show people that the imperfect produce has a lot in common with its consumers, or let them take a bite and watch them discover that the imperfect produce tastes the same as its perfect “pals.”
What clearly is a marketing strategy definitely says a lot about the human brain. Once people are able to grasp the lovable and fun aspect of carrots that look like two people hugging each other, they are more likely to buy imperfect produce. Some people choose the imperfect as a result of sympathizing with the “imperfection,” internalizing the notions of “loved” and the “unloved.” Imperfect’s social media accounts advertise its products as sexy and confident — traits we would want to have as human beings — and uses captions like “my curves are good for you.”
Imperfect does a lot. 20 percent of produce in the United States is wasted at farms for not looking a certain way since supermarkets and retailers refuse to buy them. Imperfect gives these fruits and vegetables a second chance and prevents food waste on a basic level. The brain, clearly not visually pleasing itself, needs what these products have to offer: vitamins, minerals, and simply energy. So, with Imperfect or not, next time you go grocery shopping, take a minute and try silencing your expectations. There is no way you will go wrong with your decision as Chesler points out that even eggplants that have four inch noses coming out of them taste just normal.
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