dash wonky veg

Source: Dash

Dash’s wonky aubergine caused consternation when it was featured in a TfL advert

Dash got into hot water with Transport for London this month for our #lovewonky campaign, celebrating misshapen (but perfectly edible) fruit & veg. One aubergine in particular caused consternation, and led to us being censored across the network. You can see the picture above – what’s all the fuss about?

It was a funny moment, and actually led to us getting widespread media coverage. But it also made me think about why we’re so squeamish when it comes to the fruit & veg on our plates.

A generation or two ago, food of all shapes and sizes was sold everywhere as standard. But in recent times, everything in supermarkets – from carrots to kiwis – has become pretty much the same shape, size and colour. It’s a bit chicken and egg: sellers might start by catering to more picky customers, but after a while it becomes expected this is what ‘normal’ produce looks like.

Either way, this unnecessary perfectionism has meant that 40% of fruit & veg grown in the UK never reaches your plate. Farmers are forced to plough food into the soil, or even throw away good stock because it doesn’t ‘look right’.

Encouragingly, supermarkets are now stepping up with their own ranges of wonky food, from Tesco’s ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ selections to Morrisons’ misshapen veg boxes. These are popular products saving thousands of tonnes of waste. But as an industry we also need to reset our expectations. Food waste is one of the biggest environmental challenges we face, and overcoming it means we can no longer reject fruit & veg based on looks.

Consumer habits drive innovation. So, if we can drive enthusiasm at the tills for the weird and wonderful produce that is grown in this country, bigger retailers can gain the confidence they need to make wonky fruit & veg the norm once again.

People have told me they can’t believe TfL censored a picture of an aubergine. Yet lots of us would probably have rejected the same piece of veg if we’d seen it in the supermarket. It was only thanks to reactive marketing that we were able to bring the story to life for millions of people. Mostly, the issue has flown under the radar.

That has to change, and as we call out unrealistic beauty standards for people, let’s do the same for the food we eat.