Product appearance still rules when shopping for produce

September 27, 2016

According to a recent Harris Poll, about eight in 10 Americans (81%) confirm that appearance (i.e., not blemished or misshapen in any way) is at least somewhat important to them when shopping for fresh produce (i.e., fruits and vegetables), with 43% saying it is very or extremely important.

When listed alongside other fresh produce descriptors, appearance proved to be more important than provenance (i.e., locally grown or sourced), the retailer’s food waste practices, and organic. However, the price and seasonality are more likely to be important to a purchaser than appearance.

Despite the weight American consumers place on appearance, more than three in five adults (62%) say they would be at least somewhat comfortable eating “ugly produce,” that is, fruit or vegetables that may be misshapen but otherwise taste the same. Moreover, three quarters of adults (76%) would expect to pay less for “ugly produce,” while a fifth (20%) could see paying the same as usual.

Despite professed comfort with eating ugly produce, fewer than three in ten Americans (28%) recall buying “ugly produce” in the past year, compared to 51% who are sure they did not and 21% who are not sure either way. And of those who bought “ugly produce,” six in 10 (61%) did so for the price discount.

While the primary reason Americans bought “ugly produce” was price, the runner up answer from more than a fifth (22%) of purchasers was that they wanted to reduce food waste. Americans estimate that, typically, 10% of the groceries they buy are wasted, that is, spoil or go bad before they can be eaten. Over eight in 10 Americans (84%) are at least somewhat concerned about the issue of food waste, primarily because they would like to be less wasteful (62%).

Press release