At the outset of the pandemic, I started searching for ways to get my groceries delivered straight to my door. While this didn't feel like natural behavior for me - I LOVE TO GROCERY SHOP! - it did feel like a way to keep my high-risk body out of the general population.
I tried AmazonFresh and AmazonWholeFoods, but at the time, delivery windows were sparse and nearly impossible to get. I tried Kroger's pick-up option as a way to reduce contact.
And I signed up for Imperfect Foods because it had a mission that I hold dear: ending the insane amount of American food-waste by supplying "imperfect" veggies at a discount and keeping them out of the landfill. Imperfect Foods also had a surprising inventory that included pantry goods, meats and snacks, making them a potential perfect fit.
There were apparently lots of other people in the same boat, because I was placed on a three-week waiting list. This waiting list grew twice more, which didn't necessarily deter me from trying it out. I signed up for service on April 3, I didn't receive notification to edit my shopping cart until June 5.
My first delivery came June 11. While I have to honestly tell you that their service has improved for each of the subsequent two deliveries I've received since the first, I also have the sad task of telling you that the first delivery was a disaster.
The first delivery.
Granted, I believe the waitlist was intended to get more people hired in our area to fulfill the needs of the new demand. I just don't think that the new hires were necessarily given the training needed to package the items appropriately. Anyway, when the first package arrived, I was so excited that I had it inside and was opening it within 2 minutes of it being delivered.
In the first box I received, there was no insulation, a single ice pack that had completely melted, and all of the produce, meat, bread and dairy that I ordered were tumbling about in the same large box. The meat was roughly room temperature - around 75F - so clearly not food-safe.
The feta was somewhat melted, but due to its hardier nature survived well enough. All of the berries were crushed to a pulp, and one of the peaches I received was damaged and molding. Instead of preventing food waste, I had to trash some meat and compost about 2lbs of fruit. The thought of an animal dying just to go in the trash kills me. I was beyond disappointed.
A silver lining...
I do have to state that Imperfect's customer service team was extremely responsive, especially considering what I imagine was a huge influx of customers during a very short window. My email complaint was responded to within a day. I received a partial credit and partial refund of the damaged items. Roughly $35 of my $60 order was refunded or credited. Because of this, I was willing to give Imperfect another shot.
The second delivery
For the second delivery, I was a bit wary. I set up a camera to film my entire unboxing process, for posterity's sake. Much to my delight, the second box was much improved! There was an insulated bag that contained my meats with an ice pack that was still cold. The meats were definitely edible this time, which was a huge relief.
My cheese was for some reason omitted from the refrigerated bag, so it had begun to sweat and slightly melt. My biggest disappointment was that my berries were packed poorly, and they were crushed alongside one of the nectarines I received. The compost bin got another big deposit. Again, Imperfect Foods' customer service team responded very quickly and set things right with another account credit for the damaged goods.
The third delivery.
Last Thursday was my third delivery from Imperfect, and again, they had made some improvements. My cheese made it in the refrigerated bag! My meats were appropriately refrigerated! But there were still some issues with the packaging and the product. The clamshell of fresh herbs was not only open and floating around the box, it was also kind of lame. There was a single sprig of parsley (seriously. What can I do with a single sprig of parsley??), two sprigs of thyme, and a sprig of mostly molded rosemary. Not ideal.
In addition to moldy rosemary leaves sticking to everything in the box, there was again some damage. An apple and a peach both had gouges taken out of them, which I assume was the fault of the open clamshell package. The kale had been flattened under the weight of the refrigerated bag. I don't understand how they haven't figured out that there should be compartments separating vulnerable produce from heavy foods. It truly boggles my mind.
Imperfect Foods has a wonderful mission: to end food waste in America. It's a huge problem, and I love that they are trying to tackle it. They offer online resources that are educational and informative. Their customer service is impeccable. The product offerings are surprisingly vast. Their packaging is mostly recyclable or compostable. They are doing so many things well, but they need to work out some kinks.
Clearly the biggest hurdle that Imperfect faces (in my opinion) is a lack of an appropriate packaging strategy. While I love the idea of what they're trying to accomplish, without better packing they'll end up doing just the opposite and contributing to the food waste problem. I have resolved to give them one more week of my business in the hopes that these were just potholes on the road to success. I want so badly for them to be successful!
At this point in time, I cannot in good faith recommend Imperfect Foods as a grocery delivery service provider. The quality of at least ⅓ the food I've received has more been more than "imperfect." It has been inedible. I'm hoping that time and experience will shore up their practices and I can edit this post in the future to enthusiastically support their endeavors.
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