Reviews

Imperfect Foods Review (Formally Imperfect Produce): My Experience After One Year

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This is my personal review of Imperfect Foods, which used to be called Imperfect Produce. 

I signed up for Imperfect Foods in January of 2019 and have received a weekly delivery for over a year. 

This has allowed my family of five to try just about everything the service offers — from weirdly-shaped produce to staples like olive oil, dark chocolate and tortillas.

In this Imperfect Foods review, you’ll learn:

  • About the company
  • About the produce and other available items
  • How the pricing works
  • Pros and cons
  • And much more

Let’s dive in!

product-image

My family has been getting weekly deliveries from Imperfect Foods for over a year. We love the selection and the ability to customize our boxes, not to mention the great prices and exceptional customer service.

Pros:
  • The produce is farm fresh and tastes great!
  • Many products are locally sourced.
  • You can save as much as 30% off grocery store prices.
Cons:
  • Items are sometimes out of stock, which throws a wrench in your meal planning.
  • Suppliers and products change frequently, so your favorites may not be available for future orders.

What Is Imperfect Foods?

Imperfect Foods is a service that delivers fresh, conventionally-grown and organic produce and grocery items — including baked goods, meat, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, beverages, and household staples — right to your door.

The “imperfect” part means that the items Imperfect Foods sells may not meet a conventional grocery chain’s aesthetic standards. In other words, they might have weird shapes, unusual coloring or other cosmetic “blemishes.”

Grocers only want to display and sell uniform, perfect-looking produce and packaged items. So what those stores pass up, Imperfect Foods buys and sells at a discount through its direct-to-consumer subscription model.

If you’re looking for ways to save money on groceries, this is a good one: Imperfect Foods saves customers as much as 30% on produce, meat and seafood, and pantry items.

What’s wrong with this “Grade B” food? Nothing that will impact its taste or nutritional value.

  • An orange might have a bit of scarring on its peel.
  • A bundle of carrots may come in different sizes.
  • A bag of corn tortillas might come in an old package as opposed to the company’s newly-designed one.

In other words, definitely nothing that will reduce your enjoyment of these items — it all looks the same when it becomes a meal anyway!

Frankly, most of the time I can’t figure out just what’s supposed to be “wrong” with the items in my Imperfect Foods box.

Here’s a photo of some carrots I received in my most recent box:

Imperfect Produce Carrot Bundle

How Does Imperfect Foods Work?

Imperfect Foods offers four subscription options:

  • Regular (which contains conventionally-grown produce)
  • Organic
  • All Fruit
  • All Veggie

The Regular and Organic boxes come in small, medium, large and extra-large sizes, while the All Fruit and All Veggie boxes come only in small and medium sizes. You can choose to receive boxes either weekly or bi-weekly.

Here’s the content breakdown of those box sizes:

Box SizeFeedsContains
Small2 to 4 people7 to 9 pounds of food
Medium4 to 6 people11 to 14 pounds of food
Large6 to 8 people17 to 19 pounds of food
Extra-Large8 to 10 people23 to 25 pounds of food

My family of five orders the extra-large Organic box every week (see some of our haul below).

Imperfect Produce Extra-Large Organic Box

Customizing Your Box

Saving money on groceries means not ordering a box that contains foods you don’t like and won’t eat.

But some services don’t allow you to make substitutions on your order.

With Imperfect Foods, you have many customization options beyond size and frequency, and more control over your box contents.

Your Imperfect Foods box will be filled with seasonal items available at that time of the year. If there are things you don’t like, you can remove them and replace them with more of the things you do like.

In fact, your box is fully customizable (within a two day pre-shipment period) if you choose to go that route, although customization isn’t required.

The screenshot below shows how you can scroll through the different products (and see why they’re included) as you build your box. You can use the filters on the top, which makes it easy to sort by types of food.

imperfect produce filters

If you want to know specifically why a particular item is being offered (i.e., what its “flaw” is), you can just click “More info…” and you’ll see an explanation like the one below.

Imperfect Produce Inclusion Reason

What does that explanation look like in practice?

Well, here’s a photo of the peaches we received so that you can judge for yourself:

Imperfect Produce peaches

When you join, you’ll see what day(s) Imperfect Foods delivers to your area, and you can choose the best delivery time for you.

When the delivery driver is close, you’ll receive a text message. You don’t have to be home to accept delivery, and drivers will do their best to follow whatever instructions you specify.

Other changes you can make to your subscription box include:

  • Add individual non-produce items (like meat, dairy and pantry items) to any order.
  • Choose from meat, dairy, grain, snack and other “add on” packs.
  • Skip a delivery.
  • Change the frequency of your deliveries.
  • Change the size of your box.
  • Cancel your subscription at any time.

Meat, Fish, Eggs and Dairy

There are far more options available today than when I signed up. This makes it quite enjoyable to get the email that it’s time to customize my box, as I never know what new items I might find.

One of the most significant changes has been the addition of meat, fish and other products that require refrigeration (such as yogurt, butter and cheese).

Imperfect Foods now offers subscription add-ons for these types of items: a “Meat & Fish Pack” that includes two or three proteins, and a “Dairy Grocery Add On” that includes three or four items. The price of each varies.

You can also add these items individually if/when you customize your box. For example, the 100% grass-fed beef for $5.99 is a new favorite of ours — it’s a pretty good value and it tastes great.

The one issue with the meat and seafood is that your box doesn’t come packed in dry ice, which would keep it frozen solid.

Additionally, Imperfect’s trucks are not refrigerated. Instead, meat and seafood items are packed with a large ice pack in a plastic (#4 recycle) bag, and included in your regular box. 

The meat we’ve received has never arrived at an unsafe temperature on delivery day (which would be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit). However, we’ve had times when it’s been delivered totally thawed, times it has arrived in a semi-frozen state, and times it has arrived frozen solid. 

This can sometimes mess up meal planning, as thawed meat should be consumed within 2 to 3 days and can’t be refrozen.

As for dairy, there are both traditional and vegan options available. My daughter, who has a dairy allergy, has enjoyed the vegan yogurt and butter (which tastes a lot better than the well-known Earth Balance brand).

The first time we received eggs, about 50% were broken. When we mentioned this to customer service, they issued a prompt refund. Fortunately, this issue seems to have been a one-off, as the eggs in all of our subsequent orders have been fully intact.

Note: While my family enjoyed Imperfect Foods’ meats, we’ve started ordering organic, grass-fed meat delivery from Crowd Cow. You can read more about why I love their products in my Crowd Cow review.

What Exactly Is “Imperfect” Meat?

If you’re anything like me, one of the first questions that comes to mind is what constitutes “imperfect” meat, seafood and dairy.

Eating a crooked carrot is one thing, but we all want to avoid animal products that might make us sick (or that just taste “off”). 

Fortunately, Imperfect Foods does not sell any meat, seafood or dairy products that come anywhere close to being dangerous.

Here are a few examples of how these items are sourced:

  • Many products are sourced from direct relationships they’ve built with farms and dairies. They’re the same products you’d find in a grocery store, but with the middle man cut out.
  • For beef and poultry products, offerings are usually the result of vendor surplus. In other words, the farmer has more supply than they can sell through their other channels, so they offer it to Imperfect Foods at a discount.
  • For fish, Imperfect Foods often gets cuts that aren’t quite the right size and shape for use in commercial environments like restaurants.  

Additionally, you’ll be glad to know that…

  • Meat is antibiotic free and vegetarian fed.
  • Seafood is sustainably farmed or wild caught.
  • Eggs are cage free, with pasture-raised and organic eggs available in some locations.
  • Dairy is free of artificial hormones.

How Much Does Imperfect Foods Cost?

The approximate prices for each box are listed below. There’s also a $4.99 to $5.99 delivery fee for each shipment. 

The Ways To Wealth Readers can use this exclusive link to save $10 on their first box: Sign up for Imperfect Produce.

Size and TypePrice
Small — Conventional$11 to $13
Small — Organic$15 to $17
Medium — Conventional$14 to $16
Medium — Organic$22 to $24
Large — Conventional$20 to $22
Large — Organic$33 to $35
Extra-Large — Conventional$39 to $43

If you add non-produce items or heavily customize your box, the prices listed above will change as you add and subtract things. Price updates occur in real time as you make changes, so you can keep a running tally as you go.

Imperfect Produce Customization

Once your customization window has closed, the credit or debit card attached to your Imperfect Foods account will be charged. The pending charge will process the day after your delivery arrives.

As I mentioned earlier, my family orders one extra-large Organic box per week, and we add a lot of additional grocery items to each order. We’re especially fond of the corn tortillas!

Imperfect Produce Corn Tortillas

Our weekly box usually costs between $40 and $70. You can do Imperfect Foods for a lot less if you stick to a standard produce-only box and schedule bi-weekly shipments.

Related: Here are 15 tips for eating healthy on a budget, plus a sample meal plan and grocery shopping list.

Imperfect Foods Pros & Cons

Since this is an Imperfect Foods review, let me break down my experience.

10 Things I Love About Imperfect Foods

  1. The produce is fresh and tastes great. It turns out that ugly doesn’t have a taste! Besides, most of the produce isn’t very imperfect to begin with. Often, you’d need a jeweler’s loupe to spot any flaws.
  2. The produce is locally-sourced when possible, and over 75% of it is sourced from family farms or cooperatives.
  3. It helps reduce the amount of food waste. Currently, 133 billion pounds of food per year goes uneaten, often because it’s “ugly.”
  4. You can save as much as 30% when compared to local grocery store prices.
  5. Produce delivery saves time, which saves money.
  6. Each order is customizable, although you can also choose to let Imperfect Produce do the picking on your behalf.
  7. The website has a clean, intuitive interface that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, customize orders, and manage your account.
  8. It’s free to change or cancel your subscription at any time. There are no contracts or minimum purchases.
  9. The service offers a wide selection of staples, from fruits and veggies to cooking oils to snacks (and everything in between).
  10. They provide great customer service. On one of our recent orders, we only received one of two expected boxes. We called the number we’d received the delivery notice text message from, and were immediately connected to a customer service rep. That rep was able to contact the driver, who was back at our door with the missing box 10 minutes later.

3 Imperfect Foods Critiques  

  • Sometimes items you ordered end up being out of stock. If you’re trying to follow a meal plan for health or cost reasons, this can cause a significant inconvenience.
  • Suppliers and products change. You may love a certain item one week and it may be unavailable the next.
  • They don’t have an app. Their mobile website is still solid, but I would prefer the usability of an app to make adjustments to my order when I’m not around a computer.

Here’s a map of the Imperfect Foods delivery area, which is current as of November 2020:

Imperfect Foods Delivery Map

Am I Doing Harm?

This all sounds great, right? I love the service Imperfect Foods provides. It’s easy to use, reasonably priced and saves me and my family a lot of time.

But over the months that I’ve been a subscriber, I’ve started to wonder about the secondary effects of this service — most importantly, whether purchasing this food takes it away from food banks.

This is a fairly common question from Imperfect’s customer base. 

Here’s what Imperfect Foods has to say on the matter:

Feeding America, the largest network of food banks in the United States, reported that in 2017 they received 1.47 billion pounds of produce. They let us know that, of that amount, roughly 10% of it comes from farms. With 20 billion pounds still getting wasted each year on farms, we are only scratching the surface of this huge problem of food waste. As Feeding America puts it, ‘When we stop food waste, we take a big step toward ending hunger.’

Over 4 years, the Imperfect community has recovered 96 million pounds of produce that might have otherwise fallen through the cracks of our food system. While we’re proud of this impact, it’s still only the tip of the iceberg and it certainly isn’t diverting produce from food banks. We work closely with food banks across the country to actively increase the amount of fresh produce they receive and have donated over 4 million pounds of produce as of January 2020.

That sentiment is reflected in an Atlantic story titled “The Murky Ethics of the Ugly-Produce Business,” which suggests that Imperfect’s business model does not have a negative impact on food bank supplies. 

For example, in the Atlantic article linked above, Kait Bowdler — the director of sustainability for Philabundance, which is Philadelphia’s largest community food bank — says the two “imperfect food” startups that service the area haven’t created any issues for her organization, which hasn’t seen any drop-off in donations from growers since Misfits Market and Hungry Harvest became popular in the city.

“We have bigger problems we should be worried about,” Bowdler said.  

Additionally, some community food organizations have found it possible to work productively with ugly-food companies, despite worries that their success means diverting food away from people in need. 

However, taking a deeper dive into this issue paints a more complicated picture.

One issue is that while some of Imperfect’s suppliers are small local farms, the company does also source products from larger farms, ranches and dairies — i.e., from big agriculture.

So, even though I avoid adding anything to my box that appears to be a big ag product, is there a chance that by using the service I’m indirectly supporting a type of industrial farming that is, among other things, bad for the environment?

I don’t have an answer to this question. And from what I can find, I don’t think there’s a simple or clear one.

Still, I feel comfortable overall, based on what I’ve read, that these services do not take food away from food banks. 

Of course, there are serious underlying issues with our current food system, and while selling “food waste” is a good short-term solution, one of the keys to ending hunger is reforming the system so that it doesn’t create 133 million pounds of food waste every year in the first place. 

Imperfect Foods Review — Closing Thoughts

So that’s it for my Imperfect Foods review.

I’ve now stuck with Imperfect Foods since January of 2019, which dates back to their Imperfect Produce days. If I do cancel, I will update this post to explain why.

I’m glad to be playing a small part in fighting waste in the food system. And at the end of the day, my family is getting a box of extremely fresh produce, healthy food and other essentials of high quality, delivered to our door for a very good price. That right there is hard to beat.

It’s true that not every avocado, bell pepper or peach we receive meets the grocery industry’s high cosmetic standards, but they taste just as good as what you can find in the store — and often better, thanks to their freshness.

And frankly, most of the items look just fine and would be hard to classify as “ugly produce.”

If Imperfect Foods delivers in your city, it’s worth giving this farm fresh grocery delivery service a shot.

Here’s a link to Imperfect Foods.

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.

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11 Comments

  1. I live in Aurora Colorado. you do not deliver in my state. do you know when you will be starting soon?

    1. Hi June! This is an independent review of Imperfect Foods and we’re not privy to their future business plans. So, unfortunately, I’m not able to answer your question. I would encourage you to contact the company via their customer support portal.

  2. I’ve been using Imperfect foods for a few months now and I have mixed feelings. I enjoy getting fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to my door and have been eating more produce because of it. I usually order the medium box just for me. I don’t mind the physical imperfections on the produce and am glad they are not being thrown away.

    The problem is sometimes I get produce that is really past its date and either must be eaten the day I receive it or it’s beyond salvaging. I have also received for example, two onions the size of garlic heads, or a couple of small carrots when the description said a pound of each would be sent. I think it’s a great idea but it still needs a little work or better QC.

  3. I had a bad local delivery experience. Our medium to large box (which cost about $50.00) of organic fresh fruits and vegetables and cheese, went to another apartment.

    We got the other apartment’s box with six apples, four cans of cold coffee and a candy bar. The box was left sitting out in the heat with a chocolate bar in it no less. The delivery man never knocked on the door, he just set it outside. If my daughter didn’t ask me if the delivery came I wouldn’t have known.

    Back and forth with the company, who, I suppose, was trying to be nice, but wasn’t solving anything because you know the neighbor, when they saw the box they got, complained first, but never bothered to come over to this apartment and swap boxes, must have gotten comfortable with the idea that this box, was now theirs.

    I tried going over, knocked on the door to swap boxes, but to no avail. They got our food. 🙁

    Well the corporate office, instead of saying, “I’ll offer you a refund and will immediately ship out another box for both parties, making sure the boxes get to their proper destination,” said he was “truly sorry,” and “we are unable to reach out to the drivers while they’re on route. But I wanted to do everything I could to get you your groceries so you wouldn’t have to head to the stores and interact with a lot of people.”

    Then he said, “I truly wish I could drive from Tuscon to Texas and deliver the box myself.” He is going to give us a refund, and 5 bucks extra so we can order extra goodies next time. I’m like ummm… I’m grown, I don’t need “an extra $5.”

    People order food and packages to come to their homes for a variety of reasons. He doesn’t know people’s circumstances, if that money was all someone had, and was hoping on that food or if someone might be ill and having this food come to their home was a way to save money and eat pretty well.

    Telling someone keep the box you got, that was nowhere near equal in value or quality, and I’ll give you five bucks so you can get some extra goodies later for your inconvenience is barely customer service.

    This all happened in San Antonio TX. maybe in your area of the country delivery men can read aren’t as incompetent as people are in this city.

    1. Hi Karen. Sorry about your trouble and thank you for letting readers know about your experience.

      I also had the wrong box delivered once. Was able to get things sorted out pretty quickly with a phone call (and a neighbor who didn’t dive into my box). But then again, that was pre-COVID days. Volume has severely increased since then.

  4. Thanks for the very thorough review and pictures. On was on the fence about subscribing to this service and your review helped me decide to try it. After all, I can cancel if I don’t like it. Lately my local grocery store hasn’t had great quality organic fruits and veggies. I bet the imperfect food will look better and be fresher.

    Do you know what, if any, all the fires in CA has had on their sourcing food locally?

  5. I live in Marina Del Rey, CA and there’s been a fine selection of products so far in spite of the fires.

  6. I’ve been using Imperfect for several weeks, I am satisfied with the quality and selection of fresh produce and herbs, and hard to find fruits too — but my last box wasn’t delivered. I did not want any coupons, or the $5 credit (really? why bother?), I just wanted my order. Unfortunately they can’t deliver it again; you have to wait ’till they do their deliveries again in your area. So in my case, that means waiting another week for my order. Fresh fennel is not to be had anywhere within 50 miles of my location, but so far Imperfect has offered it each week on their list, along with occasionally offering organic live watercress.

  7. I have been a customer of Imperfect Foods now for about three months. While I love the convenience of the service and I think the leafy green produce I receive is better than most of what I can find in a store, twice now, my order was not correct and there’s no way to really get a hold of customer service other than email. Also, the produce is apparently “thrown” into the box because when I receive it, it looks exactly like that: I don’t get bundles of carrots, they are strewn all over the box. Same with anything else that is loose such as onions, shallots, potatoes, apples, etc. (leafy greens are bundled with rubber band or twist-tie).

    Twice now when I didn’t receive my full order, I contacted Imperfect immediately. I’ve received an email stating that someone will get in contact with me within 24 hours and this last time (missing many items from my order), it was a lot longer than 24 hours before the matter started to get resolved; there was no initial contact within 24 hours.

    Also, the week of Thanksgiving, I was told that I would be getting my delivery on Monday rather than Tuesday, just to find out at the end of day on Monday, there was no delivery, no text or email to tell me that it was delayed to Tuesday.

    I enjoy this service but maybe because it is so new, there are still many glitches. I cannot depend on the company to get my order right, so I cannot accurately meal plan with their system of “maybe you will get what you ordered” delivery, lack of communication, and inability to correct the order quickly (in other words, get me what I ordered rather than giving me a money credit).

    As far as saving money, don’t think I am saving anything other than a high delivery fee. I find that I pay the same for the “imperfect” food that I would at a grocery store and sometimes, such as with certain meat items, Imperfect Foods is higher than the grocery store.

  8. Thank you for this review. I feel more secure about giving this a try now that you’ve explained it and shown pictures.

    1. You’re welcome Janet, and feel free to leave your thoughts as well!

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