Imperfect Foods: Ugly Produce and an Attempt to Reduce Food Waste

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: April 9, 2021
Length: 14 pages
Product ID#: 4-067-580

Core Disciplines: Economics, Social Impact, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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Imperfect Foods is a grocery delivery company providing lower-cost items that may have aesthetic shortcomings and would typically be discarded. Despite its laudable anti-waste goals, Imperfect Foods has received significant pushback from the sustainability community. Critics are concerned that the for-profit organization is diluting its goal of reducing food waste by incentivizing overproduction. The director of public affairs for the company must soon deliver a communications strategy to Imperfect Foods’ executive team that addresses critics’ claims that the company is harming the environment by commoditizing “ugly” foods and working closely with industrialized farms that can profit from overproduction.

The case presents a robust opportunity for students to debate whether or not a private company can focus on purpose and profit simultaneously.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Examine and describe Imperfect Foods’ business model and evaluate its impact on sustainability initiatives, particularly those related to food waste and carbon emissions.
  • Define the Imperfect Foods mission and values, and debate why they may be more difficult to maintain as the company grows.
  • Critically evaluate food supply chains while identifying opportunities to make them more sustainable.