Would you buy or eat a bruised apple? To reduce food waste we need to start eating food with a few cosmetic blemishes.

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Wenche Aale Hægermark  

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Scientists from several European research institutes have looked at what it takes to get consumers to choose non-optimal food items.

­”It’s worth noting that virtually all non-optimal food can be sold if consumers feel they are getting a big enough discount,” says scientist Valérie Lengard Almli, Nofima’s representative in the EU project COSUS, which is being coordinated by Marije Oostindjer at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).

Over 4,000 northern European consumers

Using online surveys, scientists have charted what it takes to get people to choose sub-standard food items. They asked 4,214 consumers from five northern European countries about their choices when shopping and at home. Consumers are less picky at home.

The scientists also gathered other data about the consumers – demographic details and about their values. The survey found that consumers who believe food waste is a serious problem were more likely to choose non-optimal foods, as were consumers who shop frequently and cook.

The extent to which consumers choose sub-optimal food items depends on what is wrong with the product. Curved cucumbers, damaged packaging and yoghurt with today’s best-by date are relatively likely to be bought. Consumers are less likely to choose bruised apples and broken biscuits.

Bruised apples need the biggest discount

Wonky cucumbers and dented juice cartons do not require large discounts to sell; packets with a few broken biscuits and milk and yoghurt with the same-day sell-by date require a certain discount. But it is bruised apples that need the greatest discount to trigger sales and which are most likely to be thrown away in homes.

“Our findings show there is sales potential for non-optimal foods, especially to cooking enthusiasts and environmentally aware consumers. This may help reduce food waste by food producers and in shops,” concludes Valérie Lengard Almli.


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