Contributed by Preston
Realised it’s been a year since we embarked on our collaboration with UglyFood! That was when treatsure first expanded into the B2C surplus grocery space, and like many other cool ideas and solutions we’ve been working on, this was an experiment outside our hotels and F&B core! But we’re so glad that one year on, we have continued to see strong interest from our treatsurers and new users to save the fruits, veg and mushrooms with us.
First things first, though UglyFood is called UglyFood, not all the fruits or vegetables they list on our app is ‘ugly’ or ‘blemished’. Some are, as with the very popular ugly lemons we’ve helped to save. But others are either in excess due to some season reason, or suffered really poor demand or wrong conditions (eg. overly ripe). These result in their original owners (usually the supermarts or distributors) rejecting or filtering them out for sale which then ends up on our app.
We’re truly glad to have UglyFood as our partner the past year, them also being a young startup in the same space as us, run by young folks like us who started out in university! We first met them when one of their cofounders came up to us at our booth when we exhibited at a startup event, and since then we’ve seen them at various events together with us.
It’s amazing to see both our startups growing and now they even have a flagship outlet on campus selling their Uplift sorbets (I tried the watermelon one!), Beautiful juices and some other coolio creations like acai bowls and smoothies.
Recently I chatted with their cofounder Pei Shan about our past year of collaboration together and had a great time rediscovering UglyFood!
- What did you guys think about treatsure when you first knew about us?
I thought that treatsure is a very interesting concept, especially the collaboration with hotels. The idea opens up a lot of possibilities and I believe it is a very effective way to reduce food waste — by creating an alternative channel (in this case an app) to redistribute the food. I always remember that treatsure has cool giveaways because of the collaborations with hotels too!
2. What do you enjoy most about our collab so far?
I enjoy working with Preston! There are times where we make mistakes and we figure things out together. I like his attitude towards the customers and ensuring top notch customer service to keep our customers satisfied. I also enjoy to see our lovely customers tagging us on instagram — be it just being happy to receive our products or showing their wonderful creations!
3. How did UglyFood start as a business? What are your backgrounds?
UglyFood started as a student project back in 2016 where a group of students from SUTD seek to find out if cosmetic filtering was an issue in Singapore.
It was initiated by Pei Shan where she chanced upon an online viral video regarding fruits and vegetables being thrown away at the farm level because they did not meet the market standards. She wanted to find out if there is any fresh produce that is still perfectly good to eat that is being thrown away within Singapore. Our backgrounds are mainly in engineering and design and it started off as a Design Project to understand about the social issues within Singapore and how we can use Design Thinking in finding a solution to the problem.
There are two main types of cosmetic filtering — one is by natural looks (ie: too big, too small, too irregular in shape, etc), and one is by blemishes caused by transportation and mishandling. We brainstormed different ways to solve the issue, even thought about different packaging to reduce the instances of mishandling. However, we came to a conclusion that it is best to use the fruits and vegetables that are already blemished and turn them into nutritious food products because one, it will directly reduce food wastage, and two, it educates people more about the problem and allowing them to be involved in the movement.
4. What is your biggest joy and challenge of your business?
My biggest joy is looking at the number of empty cartons we have at the end of the week and thinking about how different people have contributed to reducing food waste with us. It gives me a huge satisfaction that people are supporting our initiative, believing in our cause and at the same time providing them healthy food.
The biggest challenge would be learning and juggling a lot of roles at the same time. It is a lot about time management, prioritising and at the same time making sure that we do not get burnt out.
5. How has running the new shop been like for you guys?
Running a store has been quite a huge learning for us. Our aim of the store was to be a place where people can visit and learn more about us and where we can conduct workshops and tours for corporates, schools and members of public so that they can learn more about living sustainably. So far, we are taking step by step towards the goal. It feels good that we have a space that we call our home where we can also expressed different ways we can reduce waste and do upcycling — for example, our tables are made of processed salvaged pallet wood provided by Touch Wood from Ground-Up Initiative and the frames were from past SUTD design projects. We also make eco-enzymes from our orange peels. It serves as an creative outlet for us, a testing ground for greater things.
Visit the UglyFood shop at SUTD at 8 Somapah Rd, #01–202 Building 2, Singapore 487372! Open Mon-Sat.
Or order their surplus groceries on treatsure every week by Thu 2359 and get it delivered to you on Sat (no self-collections this period due to COVID-19).