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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We just did a great insta-story series on this! Here are our crowdsourced tips: