OPN Connect Newsletter 347 · November 23, 2023

Sprouts Reduces Organic Produce Food Waste with ‘Rescued Organics’ Program

Earlier this year, Sprouts Farmers Market launched Rescued Organics, an innovative new program aimed at reducing organic produce food waste.

The only imperfect produce program in a US brick-and-mortar grocer and the first in all of North America to specifically focus on organic produce, Sprouts’ Rescued Organics initiative partners with multiple growers to rescue organic produce that might otherwise go to waste due to aesthetic imperfections.

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Sonya Constable, Vice President of Produce, Sprouts Farmers Market

“Sprouts has always been committed to eliminating food waste,” says Sonya Constable, vice president of produce at Sprouts. “[Starting] our Rescued Organics Program was a great opportunity for us to partner with our suppliers and use more of the crop. The items aren’t as pretty as what you would traditionally see on shelf, but they are just as fresh and taste just as good!”

For the new program, Sprouts created dedicated “Rescued Organics” signage to clearly identify the rescued organic produce in-store. “We wanted to make sure that our customers understood that this program was intentionally brought in to serve two needs: help reduce food waste and offer customers a great value,” Constable says.  

“The items offered are going to flex throughout the year based on season and availability.” - Sonya Constable

Vitalis April 2024

When it first launched, Rescued Organics began with 12 organic produce commodities, including potatoes, onions, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, pears, carrots, kiwi, and bell peppers. However, Constable notes that this number and the commodities offered are subject to fluctuation. “The items offered are going to flex throughout the year based on season and availability,” she says, explaining that the original 12 items were “chosen in partnership with our suppliers based on which commodities needed rescuing.”

The Rescued Organics program is currently in Sprouts’ 130-plus California stores, and Constable says the retailer chose to start the initiative in the Golden State for practical reasons. “A lot of produce is grown in California, so it was the most natural region for us to kick off this program.” 

Live Oak Farms, Bako Sweet, Peri & Sons, and CMI Orchards are a few of the growers participating in the Rescued Organics program, and Constable says grower participation is subject to change throughout the year depending on the season and item availability.

"The items aren’t as pretty as what you would traditionally see on shelf, but they are just as fresh and taste just as good!" - Sonya Constable 

“We are happy to be involved with Sprouts’ Rescued Organics program because too much perfectly good produce goes to waste, solely due to appearance, and contributes to our growing environmental and landfill problems,” says Mindy VanVleck, who handles sales at Peri & Sons Farms. “Sprouts’ Rescued Organics program also allows Peri & Sons Farms to more efficiently fill our produce trucks, which helps the success of our local farm and lessens our overall carbon footprint for delivery of goods.”

Mindy VanVleck, Sales, Peri & Sons Farms

Homegrown Organic Farms April 2024

As Sprouts points out on its website, about 6 billion of the roughly 80 billion pounds of annual food waste in the US comes from produce that is thrown away due to aesthetic imperfections such as small blemishes and irregularities in shape or sizing.

“At CMI Orchards, we believe that it’s what’s inside that counts,” says Rochelle Bohm, vice president of marketing at CMI, a Rescued Organics partner. “In America, as much as 30 percent of all apples and pears grown don’t make the cut, abandoned for cosmetic reasons. Yet inside, these pieces of fruit are sweet as pie and just as tasty and nutritious as you’d expect an apple or pear to be. Partners like Sprouts recognize that natural tree fruit grows in all shapes and sizes, and wise shoppers recognize that imperfections should be celebrated. As growers, having the opportunities to sell ‘the whole tree’—including blemished fruit that is just as tasty and delicious inside—helps to keep us in business.”

Rochelle Bohm, Vice President of Marketing, CMI Orchards

The Rescued Organics program not only reduces food waste and helps growers’ bottom lines, it also has the added benefit of consumer affordability since the imperfect organic items are sold at a reduced price.  

“We appreciate that Sprouts is committed to finding innovative ways to offer organic produce at lower price points, making organics more accessible,” says Live Oak Farms, a Rescued Organics partner. “Their continual effort to work directly with growers is refreshing and is appreciated by the farming community. Veggies are like people, they aren’t all perfect, but they ARE still awesome! The Rescued program helps find a home for traditionally ‘ugly’ fruit while simultaneously encouraging growers to continue to plant organic commodities.”

Creekside Organics April 2024
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