Perfectly imperfect: The Unusual Greens turns ugly fruits into tasty gelato

While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, ugly fruits are often discarded by distributors and rejected by consumers for their unappealing appearance, resulting in significant food waste. How can we change these persistent purchasing behaviours?

First conceived in Nov 2020 by then-first-year university student Hailey Yong for the Hult Prize, an annual, year-long competition challenging teams to create solutions tackling the world’s most pressing issues, The Unusual Greens (TUG) is a dessert brand that turns ugly fruits into delicious gelato.

Under the TUG Gelato line of products, the company offers two categories of gelato: from unwanted fruits and conventional offers to appeal across diverse preferences. The unwanted fruits, which are transformed into high quality gelato, take centre stage, with flavours such as Avocado Pistachio, Banana Mango Toffee with Biscoff crumbs, Mango Sorbet, and more.

“I wanted to tell people not to waste food by connecting to a simple product, and gelato made the most sense,” said Yong, now the CEO of TUG. “We spent around a year in solidifying our idea and conducting R&D into the food industry. We also invested in some machines, and officially launched the brand at the end of 2021.”

TUG sources its ingredients from excess imported fruit supplies, and suppliers and distributors of grocery stores. These distributors are the parties who receive the ugly fruits, as they are responsible for sorting them out before the items are displayed on the shelves of supermarkets and grocery. Thus far, TUG has saved 1560kg of fruits saved; the equivalent of 52,000 scoops.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme in 2021, Malaysia generates 91kg of annual waste per capita, the highest in South East Asia; these trends, in particular, spike during festive periods. This has thus resulted in the country’s food waste to rise to 44.5% compared to other forms of waste. And with the issue of limited landfills and the environmental effects of pollution looming on the horizon, action must be taken to tackle this problem.

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