🌏 Earth Day Feature: Combating food wastage with UglyFood

Have you ever noticed yourself tossing out a loaf of stale bread or leftovers after meals? This is probably a common occurrence for many of us, which unfortunately makes us contributors to one of the greatest problems that plague Singapore – food wastage. Food wastage is one of the biggest waste streams in our little red dot and the amount of food wastage generated has grown by around 20% over the last 10 years.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to innovators like Pei Shan and Augustine, there has been growing awareness on this issue. As co-founders of local startup UglyFood, their mission is to give blemished produce a new lease of life by selling them as juices and ice-creams.

As a skincare brand, wastage is also a big issue and one that we've been trying to work on and find areas of improvement. When sourcing for ingredients, we try to obtain them from organic farms near our laboratories to reduce their carbon footprint. We make it a point to use natural by-product ingredients in almost all our products - for example, the Chardonnay Grapes infused in Circadian Fixer Hydro Drops uses not just the flesh of the fruit but also its skin and seeds. These overlooked parts of the plants are often rich in vitamins, antioxidants and minerals and though they are not usually consumed, they can be used in skincare. Another example would be our use of Kudzu Root. Found in Anti Pollution Nano Drops, it is commonly regarded as a weed in Japan. Yet, it has potent antioxidant and skin protective properties which makes it perfect for use in skincare. 

Brands like UglyFood teach us to look past surface imperfections and truly appreciate the beauty and goodness behind the blemish. Inspired, we decided to sit down with them to chat about how their business tackles the problem of food wastage in Singapore, and how we can all do our part to reduce wastage this Earth Day.  

1) Tell us about UglyFood's mission. 

We aim to reduce food waste caused by cosmetic filtering and excess supplies, to create a more sustainable food ecosystem. 

2) How does UglyFood plan to achieve zero food waste in Singapore?

Firstly, through repurposing of blemished or excess produce into Acai bowls, juices, milkshakes or even our very own UglyFood-branded iced sorbets. This is done at our flagship store located within the Singapore University of Technology and Design. 

Secondly, we also give the above a new lease of life through our specially curated Fruits or Vegetables with Mushroom bundles which we market to consumers who are in sync with our sustainable values. 

3) After actively promoting your cause – reducing food wastage and maximising the value of food resources – are more Singaporeans receptive to buying blemished produce?

We have seen an uptake in consumers purchasing our bundles online in recent months, but more can still be done especially in the field of education which we are focusing on in 2021 through our workshops and learning journeys conducted with schools and corporates. 

4) How can we educate and convince more people that ‘ugly’ foods are just as good as aesthetic looking ones?

It’s about understanding climate change and the impact on our produce. As global warming gets worse, weather conditions around the world are becoming more erratic and harsh! Without any defenses, our fruits are often scarred in its natural environment which explains why it’s becoming increasingly difficult to farm perfect fruits. Suppliers and shoppers also have a responsibility to manage produce better so as not to damage them further.

Regardless, this doesn't make them less tasty or nutritious! Look beyond the blemished surface and you will find beauty within!

5) What are some tips to reduce our individual food waste? How can we support Uglyfood and other social causes in lowering our waste as a nation?

Always buy what we need. It is tempting to always indulge in bulk buys but how many times do we end up finishing everything by the expiry date?

We can afford to be more flexible in our food choices too. We don’t always have to eat avocados, yellow dragonfruit or seedless grapes. Be open to consuming other types of fruits. Our surprise UglyFood bundles serve exactly this purpose. What goes into the bundles are perfectly edible fruits or vegetables that would otherwise go to the landfills for surplus or blemished reasons.

Aside from food waste, we are also a firm believer in reducing packaging waste. We accept functional packaging of boxes of various shapes and sizes from the public which are reused for our grocery deliveries to like-minded consumers.

6) What is the future of UglyFood?

We’re focusing more of our efforts towards educating the public on the sustainable way to select fresh produce.

Learn how you can play a part in reducing food wastage here: uglyfood.com.sg

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