imperfect-veggiesThere’s a new kind of CSA box in town—the cosmetically challenged kind.

“We’re trying to create the first major consumer brand around ugly produce in America,” says Imperfect cofounder Ben Simon.

His business launches this month with deliveries of great-tasting fruit and veggies that aren’t quite mainstream in size, shape, or color to locations in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. There are plans to expand to the rest of the Bay Area soon, and Simon also recently announced a partnership between Imperfect and Raley’s supermarket in Sacramento, marking the first time a major U.S. retail chain is selling ugly produce.

The look is wonky to some, charming to others. Imperfect sources its fruit and veggies directly from California farmers, who are delighted to sell food that would otherwise go to waste. Simon notes that operations managers at Central Valley agricultural pack houses and shipping facilities have consistently told him that 20–30{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} of their produce is rejected by grocery stores for aesthetic reasons.

An Imperfect CSA box of assorted fresh fruit or mixed produce costs $12 per week, and a large mixed box costs $18, about 30{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} less than supermarket prices. The delivery fee is $3, and produce is conventional rather than organic because organic farms have so much less surplus. Imperfect is working to add an organic option.

Simon and Imperfect cofounder Ben Chesler also masterminded the Food Recovery Network, a group of 147 colleges nationwide that redistribute unused food from their dining halls.                                                                      Photos courtesy of Uli Westphal

—Rachel Trachten