How might we challenge the perception of odd looking produce in the mind of consumers, thereby promoting them as equally nutritious as perfect looking produce?

Design Research, Prototyping, Designing for Social Good, Design Strategy, Marketing
Research, Conceptualization, Graphic Design, Copy writing
Akhil Chopra, Anne Liu, Jiahui Jiang, Rozsa Simon
August – December '16 

About 1/5 of fruits and vegetables are dumped for not conforming to the industry standard of perfection. Since people seek beautiful and perfect looking produce, big chains do not accept ugly looking produce from farmers, leaving the farmers with no option but to abandon the ugly produce on the farm floor to rot. Some of the ugly produce that does make it to the retail stores does not get picked up by consumers, which often ends in a landfill or an incinerator. Food waste accounts for about 8% of global climate pollution. Food waste is not just a social problem, it has a huge economic impact as well. Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.

Shoppers fixate on visually appealing food instead of the nutritional value of the produce. Even the popular culture and advertisement promotes gorgeous, perfect looking produce, which leads to this perception of odd looking produce as being inorganic or modified in some way. While this is far from the truth, our design challenge ultimately focused on changing the perception of ugly produce in the minds of consumers.


Primary Research

Site visits to farmers’ market & major retailers, contextual interviews, surveys, observation

Secondary Research

Case studies, News Analysis, competitive analysis.


After researching about food waste in general and then zooming in on the problem of imperfect produce wastage, we developed a few insights. These insights were developed after conducting contextual interviews with around 15 people. Other tools such as observing user behaviour in grocery stores, blind food tasting, distributing surveys and testing other types of prototypes (more about this below) were used.


Not many people were aware of the scope of food waste in the united states


Many people thought that odd looking fruits & vegetables are genetically modified


Odd looking apple tasted the same as a regular looking apple


People said they would buy odd looking produce if it has a label of nutrition


People would buy odd looking produce due to environment consciousness.


People said they would buy odd looking produce if it is available at less price and is available at the store of their choice.

Identifying the Target Audience

After conducting research and developing insights, we zoned in on our target audience. We focussed on young adults from the ages 17-25, as we believe they are at the right age to target for behaviour change. Below are more attributes of our target audience.


Through brainstorming several ideas were penned down. We realised that there is a lack of awareness about food waste. Furthermore, people do not know much about the food wastage due to their perception of certain produce being deemed ‘ugly’ or weird looking. The idea that seemed to have the most prospect was a marketing campaign which would stimulate the awareness amongst our target users for an impact on their consciousness and prevent discrimination against Odd Produce, thereby reducing food waste.

Prototype and Concept

Prototype 1

Our first prototype consisted of showing participants pictures of odd looking produce and giving them a general idea about food waste. We conducted a blind tasting test, where we cut up a ‘ugly’ looking apple and made people taste it. We then asked them questions about what they thought of the taste, while showing them pictures of the apple we cut up and had them taste. We were able to understand better, the social impact on buyer’s behaviour after talking to them.

Prototype 2

In our second prototype, we printed an outline image of an apple and cut it into 9 equal pieces. We, then asked interviewees to rearrange the apple into any odd shape. What we tried to convey through our second prototype was that an apple is an apple, no matter what shape and size it comes in. The apple’s nutrition and quality is not reflected in its shape. Through this activity, we also wanted to gain insights about the behavioural change that can be brought about in people through our campaign. We collected email addresses of interviewees to keep them posted about our campaign.


Our final concept was a 360° awareness campaign, which aims to bring awareness to consumers’ mind about food wastage, especially due to people’s perception of odd looking produce. ‘Real Fruits have Curves’ is an attempt to change the norms regarding odd produce. By characterisation of odd produce, accompanied with witty copy, the campaign aims to bring light to the plight of odd produce. The visual communication on social media platforms nudge people to visit the landing page, on which one can find information about CSAs, Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores where you can get odd produce. It also informs people about how odd produce is the same as perfect looking produce.

Development & Evolution

The future prospect for our Real Fruits Have Curves Concept it to complete a 360° campaign. Our main goal for the future is to partner with bigger Brands and Food Retail Stores and create a network partnership. Once this collaboration is achieved we would profit from their brand awareness and leverage their name recognition and marketing expertise to reach a broader audience. With these partner networks we establish an interrelated win-win situation to achieve, on a larger scale, systemic and sustainable social change in the consumer’s behaviour and ecological value creation.

Read the full report here.