Worldwide, there is a great contradiction when it comes to food waste. On the one hand, it is estimated that up to 40 % of the globally produced food is lost or wasted every year, on the other hand about 925 million people suffer from malnutrition. In addition, food production has to be increased by 70 % to feed a population of 9 billion people in 2050. Due to these estimations, it becomes increasingly important to start initiatives to reduce food waste and its impact on natural resources. One reason why fruits and vegetables are wasted in developed countries is aesthetic standards set by retailers.
Aesthetic standards regulate the shape and appearance of fruits and vegetables. Retailers have set these standards based on the assumption that consumers are only willing to buy fruits and vegetables without any cosmetic flaws. The result is that produce which are misshapen are sorted out in advance and go to waste. Within this context, this paper has two main objectives: first, to explore the attitudes of consumers towards fruits and vegetables with cosmetic flaws; and second, to unveil how these attitudes influence consumers’ purchase intentions.
A survey was conducted for this research in order to investigate whether this food waste is avoidable or not. A total of 213 participants from Germany took part in the survey. The results of this research indicate that consumers in Germany are potentially willing to buy misshaped fruits and vegetables and have a positive attitude towards them. However, the degree of willingness and the attitude of consumers depend on the price of the product and on the type of cosmetic flaw. Based on the assumption that consumers are willing to buy misshaped fruits and vegetables, retailers have the possibility to take responsibility and ease their aesthetic standards for an additional offer of misshaped products. This Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative would create environmental and social benefits as well as economic benefits for the retail sector.