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B.C. stores rebrand ugly produce as 'natural'

By Eric MacKenzie

FOTOLIA

FOTOLIA

Would you buy an apple that had grown into strange shape? What about a pepper that was just a little bit smaller than you would normally look for?

And what if they cost a lot less than what you’d usually pay at the grocery checkout?

That option is there now for British Columbians after the Loblaw Companies chain of grocers announced Wednesday that it is bringing its Naturally Imperfect produce line to the province. Starting with apples and different varieties of bell peppers, the misshapen fruits and vegetables will be sold in the company’s stores at up to 30% less than the traditional price.

These are items that would otherwise be used to make juices, soups or sauces instead of being placed in the produce aisle, according to company officials. The line was introduced to stores in Ontario and Quebec a year ago to a “positive response,” and a Loblaw spokesperson said they’re planning to add onions and carrots with imperfections to B.C. shelves as well.

But, will savings at the register be enough to convince B.C. consumers to buy products different from what they’re accustomed to? It depends, said the chair of the Marketing and Behavioural Sciences division at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

Kate White, whose recent research found that people are less likely to buy products with superficial damage or imperfections, said the answer may vary for each person.

“There could be certain segments of consumers who are price sensitive, and I know there have been complaints about rising prices of certain things because of the Canadian dollar. So it’s possible that for some segments that might be a lure,” said White.

“I think there could also be a segment of consumers that is also motivated by the idea that we shouldn’t be being wasteful and it’s the socially responsible thing to do.”

Estimates peg the amount of produce wasted at as high as 50%, added White.

“Anything that could reduce that obviously has a positive effect.”

Loblaw Companies operate the Real Canadian Superstore, Your Independent Grocer and No Frills chains in B.C.