Foodservice and restaurant business BaxterStorey is to trial "wonky" asparagus across its sites in London, in a bid to reduce the amount of the crop that is wasted in the UK.
The company said that demand for uniformity in fruit and vegetables is causing an increase in food waste across the UK, with WRAP research estimating that £3b worth of food will be wasted by the UK foodservice and hospitality sector this year, up from £2.5b in 2011.
It has therefore decided to work with fruit and vegetable supplier Watts Farm to try and eradicate its wasted asparagus crop.
Watts Farm, based in Kent and Essex, supplies supermarkets, foodservice providers, restaurants and farmers' markets with around 70 different fruit and vegetable products.
Last year the business produced 36 tonnes of perfectly good asparagus, but 15% of this did not meet the specification required and was graded as waste. Uneven asparagus is graded as class two or three, and much of it is used as compost.
Ed Gray of Watts Farm, said: "Demand during the asparagus season is for grade one product that is uniform and perfectly straight, with no imperfections."
BaxterStorey has now committed to purchasing class two and three asparagus from Watts Farm to use across many of its locations on a trial basis, with a view to rolling out across further sites.
Matt Hay, chef director at BaxterStorey, said: "Asparagus is an extremely versatile ingredient, celebrated by chefs throughout its short season. We have created a series of recipes to inspire our chef teams when using asparagus, proving it does not have to be class one to be delicious."
The team will also take some of the farm's asparagus trimmings, which are routinely wasted. These will be the basis of a range of soups, stocks and sauces.
Hay continued: "We pride ourselves on using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients wherever possible. We hope offering an alternative to class one asparagus will help fight the war on food waste and encourage people to love all fruit and vegetables, no matter what their shape or size."
The initiative has only just begun and as yet there is no feedback from customers as to what they think of the wonky asparagus.
Hay and his team will review the response from customers at the end of asparagus season and if it is a success then they hope to repeat it with other seasonal produce.