'Wonky veg' boxes come to Northumberland after Rothbury councillor's petition

Wonky carrots
Wonky carrots
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Knobbly, wonky, but perfectly edible - mishapen veg is going on sale in Northumberland supermarkets after successful petition launched by a Rothbury councillor.

Supermarket chain Asda is launching its ‘Wonky Veg’ Box at stores across the North East, including sites in Ashington and Blyth, after what it calls 'customer feedback and campaigning'.

Rothbury parish and county councillor Stephen Bridgett launched his petition, urging ASDA to sell wonky vegetable boxes in its stores in the North of England and Scotland, earlier this month. It attracted more than 2,600 signatures.

Now Mr Bridgett has received a response from Asda telling him the petition has been successful.

He posted on Facebook: 'I know you are all probably sick to death of hearing about Asda's 'Wonky Veg' boxes, however, I got word today that the trial of them is being rolled out into 15 of the 22 stores in the North East and 29 stores in Scotland. And it's going to be permanent! Each box includes 5kg of fresh produce which is enough to feed a family of four for a working week and costs just £3.50 - 30% cheaper than standard lines.

'These boxes are already proving hugely beneficial to families young and old who have limited budgets and I am pleased to see areas like the North East and Scotland which have some of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK, are now going to benefit.

'Many thanks to everyone who signed the petition and to Asda for listening.'

Asda says it is committed to making the selection box of 'ugly' fruit and vegetables a permanent initiative – and is committing to putting 10,000 boxes in to 550 stores, at least once a month.

The £3.50 ‘Wonky Veg Box’ is a new family-sized hamper which includes nine in-season misshaped winter vegetable lines, and goes on sale from Thursday, February 18.

Asda says the scheme has already proved a success in the south and has also been championed during the latest series of Channel 4’s Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast.

The programme features famous foodies challenging Asda to extend its wonky fruit and vegetable range even further, which led to the new development.

The contents of the wonky fruit and vegetable box will vary dependant on the season but customers can expect to see things such as carrots, potatoes, peppers, cucumber, cabbage, leeks, parsnips and onions, to name a few.

Customer research shows that 65% of Asda customers are now open to the idea of wonky veg and 75% are drawn in by the significantly low price, which led to the range becoming a permanent fixture in the following stores in the North East:

· Ashington Lintonville Terrace

· Benton

· Bishop Auckland

· Blyth

· Boldon

· Byker

· Gateshead

· Gosforth

· Hartlepool

· Peterlee

· South Shields

· Stanley

· Stockton

· Sunderland

· Washington

The positive reaction from customers means four times the amount of wonky produce will be sold in over four times the amount of stores originally planned.

This latest extension of the initiative by Asda alone will result in at least 500 tonnes of ‘waste’ fruit and vegetables being taken from farmers and sold in the supermarket by the end of 2016.

Ian Harrison, Asda’s produce quality director, said: “We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the response to our wonky vegetable box and think it shows just how conscious our customers are of food waste, particularly in the produce aisle.

“We knew from our initial research that customers aren’t phased by the odd knobble here or a bruise there, but including this ‘ugly’ veg in a mixed box format has helped customers save even more money and plan meals for the family for the whole week, ensuring nothing is thrown away, even when it’s taken out of the supermarket aisle.

“We’re extremely excited to be able to bring the wonky veg box to even more people across the UK and in turn, further support our growers to ensure we’re buying as much of their crop as possible.”

“The differences mostly won’t even be noticeable to customers, but the waste saving to our growers will be huge.”

PUT A WONK ON IT?

The ‘wonkiness’ element of the veg changes by product.

Currently, 15% of potatoes do not meet specifications because they’re too big, too small or blemished and 15% of parsnips don’t make the shelf because they’re odd shaped or have superficial defects.

Similarly, 10% of onions that are the wrong shape and size, and 8% of carrots grown with knobbles and bobbles are left with growers.

These are the types of products that will be seen in the Wonky Veg box, meaning more crop is taken from growers.

In addition to the wonky veg box, Asda has also been consistently reviewing its standards around size, shape and cosmetic standards, focusing on reviewing specifications across all fruit and vegetables to ensure even more product ends up on shelves.

The retailer has already announced that 340 more tonnes of carrots and 300 more tonnes of sweet potatoes have been sold on shelf as a result of this initiative, but revised requirements around tomatoes, grapes, citrus and white potatoes now mean that a further 3,000 tonnes of fresh produce will be sold on shelves this year alone.