Oddbox delivers boxes of wonky fruit and vegetables to homes in south London and offices in central London. It's a new social enterprise run by Deepak Ravindran and his wife Emilie Vanpoperinghe, who are on a mission to help fight food waste. They regularly visit local farms and pack houses in order to buy produce that is considered unsellable or undesirable by supermarkets and wholesalers.
Number of followers: 700 and counting
Tagline: "We are London's only social enterprise delivering wonky fruit and veg boxes to home and offices."
Why we should follow it: Well, the Instagram feed is adorable, turning misshapen fruit or veg into little characters with eyes on them. More importantly, it’s a nice way of engaging with the issue of food surplus and food waste.
Pics taken with: Mostly an iPhone
First post: “We started initially with the produce that goes inside our boxes to give customers an idea of what was available, and then we started posting misshapen fruit and vegetables and giving them characters,” explains co-founder Ravindran. “As we progressed, we found that people responded well to stories, both information as well as characters. We think fruit and veg have character, and that they are objects but they also have some kind of history to them.
So the idea is that we transform the angle of fruit and veg as a seasonal local thing, to thinking of it as a wonky pear that’s been rejected by a packhouse because it’s too thin."
Most popular posts: “Anything where we relate these shapes to animals, and so on. For example we had one strawberry that was shaped a bit like a chicken, and we asked the question ‘what do you think it is?’ We also had a potato that looked like a heart. By asking questions it brought in a lot more interaction with people who might have previously only seen fruit and veg as objects. It’s not just about character, it’s about opening up a conversation with people, and then you can tell people more about where it came from.”
How Oddbox came about: In 2015, Ravindran and Vanpoperinghe were on holiday in Portugal where they tried “ugly tomatoes which tasted absoutely beautiful and delicious,” prompting them to think about the fact that tomatoes in the UK are sold “really round and perfectly shaped but they don’t have the same taste or character”. So really Oddbox started out of what Ravindran calls “a desire to do something with purpose, to solve a proble that exists in the world today, as Elon Musk might say, rather than just to run any business or start-up. And because we think that food waste and food poverty are two of the biggest problems from a food perspective, that was number one.
Number two is that while of course we can’t solve every single thing around food waste, we asked ‘what could we do to contribute to the solution?’ We decided that while we can’t really change the way supermarkets behave, we could certainly understand and help growers who are also small and medium enterprises, who could also do with a bit of help and support. So that’s where the driver lies - to help local growers and local companies by giving them extra revenue, and avenues to sell their undesirable produce.
How has Oddbox developed since then? Having started working with one local grower, now it works with 22 different suppliers including key players like pack houses, which uniquely exist to supply both local and imported veg like bananas and citrus fruit to supermarkets and wholesalers. Their role in the supply chain, explains Ravindran, “is to collect from various farms, store and grade or outgrade the produce, then send them off to the supermarkets depending on the orders. We didn’t realise that there was almost like a separate kind of class of supplier and not just a supermarket or farm before we started.”
He thinks supermarkets are beginning to make a lot of changes to "correct that situation - for example Tesco now takes the whole group from some farmers, Asda has its own wonky veg range, Waitrose has its own unblemished range and so on - but honestly if they really cared they wouldn’t label anything separately or as ‘wonky’. Why would you create that when you already have access to so much?”
Look out for: In the next six months to a year, we are looking to launch a crowdfund in order to expand our home boxes to the rest of London. After that we’ll be looking to expand to Bristol and Brighton and cities where there is demand for this.