When we sit in restaurants, cafes, or even your neighbourhood kopitiam, have you ever wondered what happens to the food people don’t finish? From over-ordering an extra meal to having overly ripped fruits and veggies sitting at the back of a restaurant refrigerator, food waste is happening more commonly than you think. Even if you don’t see it happening right before your eyes!
Over the years, food waste has been a dangerously growing trend in Malaysia. As of now, we have an average daily domestic waste of 38,000 tonnes. 4080 tonnes alone are able to feed at least 3 million people! So what can we do? The team at The Unusual Greens (TUG) decided to reduce food waste, specifically fruit waste, with one gelato at a time!
One of the main reasons behind mass fruit waste is due to handling, transporting, and sorting of the fruits. Normally, smaller-sized fruit stalls do not have the facilities to preserve these fruits, making their shelf lives a whole lot shorter than they can be.
Of course, we cannot deny the selection of fruits as well. It’s no surprise how only visually appealing fruits or fruits that only meet the cosmetic standards of the market are the ones being bought. For example, did you know that apples with fingernail markings are rejected? At TUG, these fruits are rescued and transformed into sinfully smooth ice creams or as they call it, smoocream!
“We want to be the “new norm” gelato, a brand and dessert that not only satisfy your happiness as well as preserves our environment”, shared Yong Xin Ying (Hailey), Founder of TUG.
Hailey, a Malaysian accounting undergraduate from the University of New South Wales, recently took a gap year to stabilise her business. Initially, she dreamt of being a fashion designer but found herself here instead. With zero culinary experience, Hailey and her team started from the ground with nothing but a strong purpose in mind.
“Here in TUG, we provide value to the public by putting the appearances of fruits aside. Our gelato ingredients are natural, rich, and are of the highest quality”.
What began as a pitch for the HULT Prize in November 2020, has now turned into a full-fledged start-up that not only advocates for the reduction of food wastage but also contributes back to society by donating their homemade goodness to underprivileged communities.
“For every 4 pints of gelato purchased, we will donate a cup of gelato to the children's home (for children in crisis or orphans), or a bag of surplus fruits to the B40 community.
By purchasing pints of gelati made out of imperfect fruits, you are lighting up an underprivileged child's day; contributing to reducing food waste, and advocating for equality”.
Although, Hailey too cannot deny the hurdles faced during her business and initiative to reduce fruit waste. Some of these include having limited resources, earning the public’s trust, and ethics on the packaging.
“As a startup, we have limited resources to be able to reach our visionary business idea which is to make the whole operation and chain of products zero-waste. Ice cream or gelato itself requires the insulation properties of a plastic, such as styrofoam, and eco-friendly alternatives are very limited in Malaysia”.
Prior to their brand launch, TUG conducted a blind marketing test to see if there is any difference in the taste of fruits that are visually appealing compared to the imperfect ones. The majority said there was no difference!
Most of us are so accustomed to having these unconscious values and standards of beauty in food imbued in our mentality, that we do not realise how detrimental it can be to our environment.
“Though different, ugly, or funny-looking on the outside, it is all the same on the inside, and people shouldn’t judge the quality or the VALUE of a fruit or food based on their appearances”.
Despite having to constantly work their way through these hurdles, multiple wins kept the team going. From receiving positive feedbacks to having saved countless fruits and contributing back to the community, TUG continues to thrive to further expand its cause and brand into our local gastronomical dessert scene by hopefully having their own physical gelateria in a year’s time!
Here are three simple tips from TUG:
1. Weekly meal preps & prepare a grocery list This allows you to only buy what you need & not overbuy to ensure that each meal has the right quantity to avoid food wastage.
2. Prioritise fresh, perishable food By placing fresh fruits, veggies, perishable food like dairy products at the front of your refrigerator can help prevent you from overlooking products that might soon expire.
3. Pick imperfect veggies & fruits Sellers tend to segregate fruits according to their appearances. You’ll often find smoother, brighter-looking fruits at the front while the imperfect ones (uneven texture, differently shaped and markings) are placed at the back or the lelong section. Pick those at a discounted price as they make wonderful smoothies or perfect additions to any dessert you’d like! Banana bread anyone?
“It is heartbreaking to realise that we practice this almost on a daily basis. We cannot imagine how many fruits were thrown away throughout the global distribution chain because they are not visually appealing enough”, shared Hailey in their interview with Kitarr.
If you all have yet to try TUG, stay tuned for their upcoming re-launch on the 8th of November with four new amazing flavours!
“After months of preparing, we are finally up for a re-launch. We have shifted our brand identity from being a homemade ice cream shop to being a luxury gelateria (Avocado Pistachio is our current favourite!)”.
Remember to keep your eyes peeled for the 8th of November on their Instagram: @theunusualgreens if you want a healthy, sustainable yet deliciously fulfilling ice cream delivered to your doorstep!
Here are some of TUG’s favourite local sustainable brands: LTTL, Hygr, Ciclo