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Ralphs partners with The Ugly Company, celebrates commitment to sustainability

Pictured is Ralphs supermarket in Westwood. The store held a product showcase with the brand The Ugly Company to celebrate a six year commitment to their sustainability initiative. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Christopher Buchanan

Oct. 1, 2023 5:33 p.m.

Ralphs supermarket held an event in Westwood on Thursday to celebrate six years of commitment to a sustainability initiative with a product showcase, cooking demonstrations and samples.

In an introductory speech from Salvador Ramirez, a corporate affairs manager at Ralphs, he said the company committed to the Zero Hunger / Zero Waste initiative in 2017 to combat food waste and hunger, adding that since then, more than 80% of Ralphs total waste has been recycled, reused or composted.

Ramirez also introduced a new product partner, The Ugly Company – a fruit company that utilizes produce with cosmetic flaws that would normally be thrown out – to create dried fruit snacks for customer samples and shelving.

According to an Ugly Company press release, Ralphs donated 22,700,000 meals toward the Zero Hunger / Zero Waste initiative last year. Ben Moore, founder of Ugly Company, said he chose to launch at the Westwood Ralphs because he wanted an opportunity to educate students about sustainable living.

“I think there’s a lot of great energy that comes from college students, especially here at UCLA, that want to live sustainably and want the planet to better for themselves, but also for their kids and grandchildren,” he said.

Ramirez also said a majority of Ralphs’ waste is recycled into clean energy at their headquarters in Compton, while other waste is donated.

Of all food supply in the United States, 30% to 40% of the food supply is wasted in the United States because of factors such as spoilage, production issues and excessive purchasing of food in households, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

A majority of waste comes from households rather than stores because of improper education about expiration dates, said Nicole Kurian, legislative director at Californians Against Waste, a non-profit environmental research and advocacy organization that partnered with Ralphs and The Ugly Company. Kurian added that The Ugly Company’s product helps to reduce waste by lengthening shelf life.

“The largest sectors are first in the household then second, grocery stores and then manufacturing and farming,” she said. “A lot of that is due to confusion over actual expiration dates on food packaging.”

Kurian said she believes Ralphs’ recycling initiative assists in reducing waste in stores before it gets to homes.

“A lot of grocery stores produce a lot of food that ends up not being purchased at the grocery stores,” Kurian said. “When they donate the food, it can go to food banks and then actually be eaten by somebody … that’s a really great way to keep waste out of the landfill.”

Moore said that when he was a truck driver before founding his company, he saw a lot of edible produce being wasted because of cosmetic flaws, such as bruises.

Moore said education about sustainability and farming is invaluable because it helps to make consumers aware of the production process and promotes waste prevention.

“What we ship as farmers is driven by what consumers are buying off the shelf,” Moore said. “If the consumer is not buying a certain defect, like hail damage or it’s too small or extensive wind scars, things like that, ultimately, we don’t have a market to sell that to.”

During the cooking demonstration, Laura Diaz, also known as Chef LaLa – a culinary expert and author – showcased recipes using Ugly Company products to craft samples for customers.

Diaz said she believes it is important to host these events so students can live more sustainably without interrupting their studies or finances.

“We all want to know how it is that we can play our part … sometimes we’re so busy,” Diaz said. “Just by buying this produce today or buying this product today, you’re supporting Zero Hunger / Zero waste, you’re making a difference, deliciously.”

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