PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Grocery retailers work hard to weed out produce that is misshapen, discolored, disfigured, or otherwise displeasing to customers, but — in a pilot program at five stores — Giant Eagle is trying something different — selling less-than-perfect looking produce to customers at a discounted price.
“Many customers find that they’re willing to give a little bit on the appearance of food to get a lot on value,” Giant Eagle’s marketing director Dan Donovan told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Thursday.
Donovan says 20 percent of food that comes into the store never makes it to the shelves, even though some of it is perfectly healthy to eat.
“The peppers that are a little bit of green, a little bit of yellow, a little bit of red they’ll go great in a salad. The potato that might be shaped like a duck it’ll make great potato salad. And the orange with the little imperfection here and there will be great for orange juice,” added Donovan.
Giant Eagle calls it “Produce with Personality,” but it’s basically oddly shaped or discolored potatoes, peppers, oranges, and apples, and prices are discounted at least 25 percent.
For example, a standard five pound bag of apples costs $5.99.
But if you’re willing to put up with a blemish or two, or maybe even an ugly apple, try the same bag for $3.99.
Some customers said they’d overlook the ugly.
“A bargain’s a bargain,” said Khrissy Starkey of Reserve. “It might not look good but if it tastes good and is the same product, why not. It’s a deal.”
But in the Strip District, Jimmy Sunseri has been selling produce for five decades.
He thinks Giant Eagle might have some early success but not long-term because customers are particular.
“They want it to be picture perfect,” noted Sunseri. “They don’t want any blemishes on it. They don’t want any brown spots. They don’t want it to be soft or mushy.”
But Donovan says the pilot program seems to be working.
“The best evidence is really seeing that customers are picking it up, putting in their baskets, and taking it home to their family.”