Introducing our new Innovator Interview Series where we speak with thought-leaders, rebels with a cause, and brands who dare to do things a little differently.
It isn’t easy to stand out at Natural Products Expo West. It’s a convention that hosts 85,000 attendees, including pioneers of the industry, bloggers, friends and so many up and coming brands. So when the whole Perfect Bar team came home talking about the same brand we knew we had to follow up.
Meet Misfit Juicery – the juice company putting the squeeze on food waste. With on-point branding, a perfectly quirky personality, and brand ethos out to save the world, Misfit stood out in the crowd (literally). Nevermind their product is delicious! Their mission? Save fruit otherwise deemed too ugly to hit grocery store shelves from heading to landfill and save the planet one bottle at a time.
We met up with Co-founder Ann Yang to learn more about their business, how they got started and ways we can reduce our food waste.
Where did your journey into food waste start
My co-founder Phil and I started the company with four crates of ugly peaches from one farmer and a blender that I borrowed from a woman I babysat for in his college kitchen when we were juniors at Georgetown University. We both studied in the International Relations school at Georgetown and became increasingly aware of how the food system at large, and specifically food waste, is linked to climate change and wanted to do something about it. We use 80% of our fresh water in agriculture! We bribed our friends with six packs of beer to help deliver juice to a few coffee shops and a salad shop on campus.
Tell us about Misfit – how did it manifest from idea to product?
At Misfit, we make delicious products out of supply chain inefficiencies. Our pilot product is a line of cold-pressed juices that we sell in 12 oz bottles and kegs that are made from ugly fruits and vegetables and scrap waste that are not the right size, shape or color for grocery stores. We like to say that we are on a mission to celebrate Misfits in agriculture and in life, because who hasn’t felt like an oddball or out of place at some point in their life?
You share this fact: “Farmers lose up to 1/3 of their harvest due to cosmetic issues. Food that’s never eaten uses 25% of our fresh water and 18% of our arable land,” which is astonishing and almost unbelievable, what has been the most shocking to you as you embraced making misfit a brand?
We are getting more and more calls about product that can’t be sold due to climate change damage. We source a lot of apples that have been hail-damaged, and last summer we turned watermelon that was sun-burnt (too yellow on one side) into kegs of juice. The effect of changing weather patterns on agriculture and supply availability is a huge problem that our larger food system is facing, and we are excited about how agtech and innovative food startups are working together to address these issues.
We love how you say “baby carrots aren’t a thing” can you explain that even further and how educating consumers on facts like this fit into your brand’s mission?
Baby carrots are cut down from larger carrots and that results in a lot of perfectly delicious trimmings and tops going to waste! Fresh cuts (carrot sticks, celery sticks, zucchini noodles and romaine hearts) also result in an excess scrap waste. We are partnered with Baldor Specialty Foods to source these fresh cut scraps to fight food waste. Interestingly, a majority of a fruit or vegetable’s nutritional value is in the peel, so it’s a shame that a lot of this product ends up in the landfill.
It’s very clear that consumer education is incredibly important for Misfit, what challenges have you met along the way in teaching about food waste and why it matters?
When we first started a lot of people didn’t understand the complexities of food waste! A lot of people thought we were sourcing overripe or rotting fruit, which is not the case. Luckily, there’s been a renaissance around food waste in our country, because reducing food waste is the number three way we can fight climate change. The press and other organizations have been so helpful at partnering on consumer education! John Oliver created an episode about food waste, the Ad Council currently has a Save the Food campaign running, and chefs like Dan Barber from Blue Hill have done a lot to educate consumers on food waste. Anthony Bourdain just released a documentary called Wasted! that centers on our food waste problem.
You recently underwent a rebrand, can you explain that process and what it has done for your company?
We worked with an amazing design studio in Brooklyn named Gander. Our goal was to better tell the social mission of our company on our packaging and larger brand system. It was a really emotional process! It required our team to think deeply about what was most important to us, and what Misfit would be like if we described our brand as a good friend! We are grateful that our rebrand was named 1 of the Top 10 Brands of 2017 by Under Consideration, featured on The Die Line and in AdWeek.
You mention that “misfit” is used not only to describe the produce used in your juices but also can be applied to you as founders changing the tides of “normal” entrepreneurs and founders. What does “misfit” mean to you in this usage and has it changed over time?
Phil and I are both children of immigrants. I grew up in a low-income household, which taught me how to do a lot with very little resources from an early age. We both are highly influenced by our social justice education at Georgetown, and it’s important for us to have a diverse and inclusive team. A passion of mine outside of building a better food system is to help entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds find their way! I certainly couldn’t have done it without the community around me and my mentors. Misfit at the end of the day is about building a community well. Our business was built on a thousand favors from people we love. I think our industry as a whole needs to work together to better support female founders and founders of color and diverse backgrounds.
As entrepreneurs, what is a lesson that you’d like to pass along to anyone starting their own brand or business venture?
Your job as an entrepreneur is to talk to people who are smarter than you. It’s a really a great deal if you think about it! Never be afraid to ask for help, no one can do it alone. And be vulnerable! At the end of the day, the connections we make with other people are the best part of the process.
So where can we start, as consumers, to try to eliminate our own food waste?
We just did a great insta-story series on this! Here are our crowdsourced tips:
- Do two smaller shops during the week so there are no wilted veggies lurking in the back of your fridge
- Turn broccoli stems and carrot tops into yummy pasta sauce!
- Make bread pudding muffins out of stale bread
- Turn random veggie ends into a one-pot soba noodle stir-fry for lunch
- Make compost like a boss for future veggie growing
- Save old fruit bits into the freezer to turn into iced tea
- Use radish tops in your next dip recipe
- Transform the last bits of marinara sauce and salsa in those jars in your fridge into shakshuka
- Save veggie scraps in the freezer for veggie broth
- Transform a brown rice fail (or just your leftover rice) into yummy rice pudding for dessert