Looking good: UAE’s first ‘ugly’ grocery delivery service highlights beauty of stemming food waste
Launched at the end of 2021, EroeGo sources ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables directly from farmers, markets and wholesalers in UAE, packs them into a box, and delivers direct to consumers in Dubai weekly.
Food waste is a huge global issue, and in the UAE, around one million tonnes of food is still wasted each year. A lot of this waste comes from supermarkets turning down groceries that are 'ugly' or considered to be excess produce.
Instead of getting this waste from supermarkets, EroeGo chose to go straight to the source, partnering with producers, farmers and wholesalers.
“We have access to fresh produce that's delicious, fresh and perfectly good to eat. They may be a little 'ugly', but they are also fresher because they haven’t been sitting in the warehouse or on the shelves. Because we eliminate as many middlemen as possible, our boxes are up to 30% cheaper than similar products sold in grocery stores or supermarkets,” said Daniel Solomon, EroeGo’s founder.
“We embrace this perfectly good food, rescue it, and deliver it straight to your door instead.”
According to Solomon, many factors contribute to food waste including labelling issues, packaging problems, transportation damage, to aesthetic requirements.
And supermarkets are only displaying perfect-looking produce to attract consumers, throwing the ‘ugly’ produce away. When food is thrown away, it also involves the waste of water, energy and resources that went into making these foods.
“The industry is also not understanding the difference between food that has gone bad and food that does not fit the perfect standard,” Solomon told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We are much more than an 'ugly' produce delivery service. We believe that every bit of food should be eaten. We're also the first company in the MENA region to offer more than food delivery, we're committed to reducing CO2 emissions and making society sustainable.”
For every box delivered, the firm provide meals for two people facing hunger, to help fight inequality.
Ugly is gold
The firm currently sells three types of boxes, fruit, vegetable and a combination of fruit and vegetable.
There are more than 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables offered to date and every box varies, depending on which produce is in season.
Examples of produce sold over the past weeks were pineapples, mango, tomatoes, and strawberries.
EroeGo is planning to introduce more pantry staples in the future.
Education is key
Since EroeGo is pioneering a new concept in the UAE, Soloman said educating all stakeholders from farmers to consumers is key to succeed in fighting food waste.
For instance, on the consumer side, some people believe that ‘ugly’ produce do not contain as much nutrients as the perfect-looking products, and in the producer side, they may already be busy producing the perfect fruit or vegetable and may not have the time or resources to tap into a value added solution.
Soloman said: “You have to prove it in numbers to make sense. With the partners we work with, it’s not just some corporate social responsibility, it actually can increase the return on investment that normally would get lost.
“The local mandates by the government have also helped push our agenda, as a lot more companies are really being cautious about how much food are being wasted. Most importantly, consumers are gaining more awareness, and will reduce the challenges that we might be faced.”
The UAE has pledged to cut food waste by 50% by 2030, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with ongoing campaigns and awareness programmes driving this mission.
In 2022, EroeGo is focused on building awareness in UAE, “ensuring that consumers are getting value for their money and promote affordability and accessibility to more people, reducing food waste in the process.”