- Using "ugly" produce has been posited as a way for manufacturers to reduce waste in their supply chains. But marred produce could also offer additional health benefits manufacturers can add to products.
- Various studies have shown that marred produce could have higher antioxidant contents because the plant would have produced more antioxidants to combat stress during its life cycle, such as fungi and pests. Other compounds plants produce under stress could also be beneficial to humans, but these benefits are not documented as extensively.
- However, environmental experts stress that antioxidant content depends on a number of factors, so manufacturers shouldn't jump into using marred produce before doing research.
If manufacturers haven't already begun embracing imperfect produce because of waste implications, these findings may be the last push manufacturers need to turn away from the notion that every piece of produce they use has to look perfect. Appearance is crucial for food and beverage products, but manufacturers could use produce in such a way (such as chopping and blending) that consumers would never know the product contained marred produce to begin with.
What manufacturers have to be careful about, of course, is safety. It's easy to assume that marred produce is unsafe, but research shows that isn't always the case. Many types of scabs or discolorations that produce forms have no ill health effects on humans. This can lead to both less waste and lower costs for the manufacturer and its supply chain.
If a manufacturer wants to use this type of produce, management should consider and document the safety procedures the company will need to put in place to ensure safe sourcing of ingredients, per FSMA requirements.
Another consideration is how using a particular type of marred produce might impact the nutrition and health benefits of the product. If an apple with scabs offers more antioxidants, the manufacturer could include claims about antioxidant content or benefits associated with antioxidants on the label or in advertisements.
But if a manufacturer is going to go as far as to change label claims, the company should have a steady source of the produce ingredient with that particular type of imperfection to ensure consistency at a level of mass production.