An oddly shaped cucumber, no matter how fresh, doesn’t stand much chance of getting sold.
Not because it would taste bad but because, as first century Roman gourmand Apicius wisely observed, “We eat first with our eyes.”
Western consumers are so turned off by blemished produce that as much as six billion pounds of fruit and veggies go unharvested or unsold in the United States every year mainly for aesthetic reasons, according to the Ugly Produce is Beautiful campaign.
Two Israeli industrial design students, Esti Brantz and Meydan Levy, were disturbed to see the quantity of imperfect-looking produce rejected by shoppers at Jerusalem’s open-air Machane Yehuda market.
Brantz and Levy began buying these unattractive vegetables from the market’s vendors and spent two years developing an attractive way to present them to mainstream consumers.
Their efforts led them to launch a food-tech startup, Anina Culinary Art.
Anina now offers five varieties of all-natural, ready-to-heat “meals-in-a-pod” artfully composed from visually flawed produce.
“We buy leftover produce directly from farmers,” explains Brantz. “This provides them income for vegetables they usually have to discard.”
Every single-serving pod contains two full cups of vegetables — 40 percent of an adult’s daily nutritional requirements — for a fast, nutritious stovetop or microwave meal to make at work or at home.
Putting the art in culinary art
There are niche businesses, especially in the United States, that sell exclusively ugly produce direct to waste-conscious consumers.
Brantz and Levy didn’t find anyone using these vegetables to create ready meals. They used techniques from the art world to invent pretty pods of vegetable “sheets” made from unmarketable produce, says Nathan.
“Vegetable sheets are the heart of our technology. They’re strong and flexible and can be filled and molded in a novel process,” says Nathan, a culinary school graduate with more than 20 years of marketing and business management experience at food companies including Nestlè and Tnuva.
Heading to US market
Founded in June 2020, Anina has raised $3.3 million from the Strauss Group’s The Kitchen FoodTech Hub, Unovis, Unorthodox Ventures, AgFunder, Words Create and the Israeli Innovation Authority. The company is based in Rishon LeZion.
Video source - Anina Culinary Art/Youtube