Gen Z and Millennials want to eat healthier and more sustainability—and they’re looking for unique food. Misfits Market is the subscription service putting all that in one box…
Gen Z and Millennials are changing food shopping. First, they’re wellness-intensified generations prioritizing their health and eating healthier. YPulse’s cooking and diets survey found that 35% of 13-to-36-year-olds said that nearly half of young consumers are eating fruits or vegetables as one of their top foods during either breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even as a snack. Because young consumers are worried about the future and believe climate change is the biggest problem facing their generation, they’re seeking out more sustainable options for their diets and food—right down to the food packaging. In fact, 79% of 13-to-36-year-olds say buying products from brands that have social good components make them feel better about spending money—and 30% want the social cause brands should focus on is global warming, while 26% think it should be environmental issues in general.
One of the trends we predicted for 2020 was the rise of ugly food—which is a potential force against food waste issues. Our Cult of Ugly research shows that 37% of 13-to-36-year-olds are interested in purchasing misshapen fruits or vegetables. Not only are ugly foods environmentally friendly, but being children of the digital era, Gen Z and Millennials are also interested in unique-looking food they can post on social media. And after years of hyper-edited and groomed plates, perfect looking food doesn’t stand out on feeds, and is getting a little boring. Last year, the Sumo, a wrinkly orange, trended briefly on Instagram—and we’re betting that this year will see more imperfect foods and dishes grow in popularity, thanks in large part to startups like Misfits Market.
This subscription service brings affordable “misfit” produce to users at a price up to 40% cheaper than grocery stores in order to reduce food waste at a scale that creates a positive and lasting impact. Their products are the fruits and vegetables that get rejected from supermarkets for being too big, too small, a little bumpy, under-ripe, or otherwise imperfect but still edible and delicious. Since 2018, they’ve grown from a single-city outfit delivering boxes via Uber to a 24 state-network run out of a 140,000 square foot facility—all by making “second rate” produce accessible to shoppers. Now, they’re expanding beyond produce to grocery store items and pantry staples like coffee, chocolate, grains, provided with the same steep discounts as their fruits and veggies.
We spoke with Misfits Market’s Head of Marketing about how Millennials have changed grocery shopping, the importance of food content, the mission to reduce food waste, and how social media has played a major part in their success:
YPulse: How does the service work?
Holly Eagleson: A customer can simply go online to our website, choose what size works for them in the frequency that works best. We offer weekly and bi-weekly boxes, and signing up for a subscription is no hassle and no commitment. Within days customers can get a box of fresh, delicious, and organic produce right at their doorstep that is aggregated from farms across the country—some in our region—depending on seasonality. We find a lot of our customers might not be able to make it to the grocery store—whether they are working crazy hours and trying to get a foothold in their new career in a big city, or are families with several kids parents working multiple jobs and can’t shop at those peak hours, or even people with disabilities or senior citizens on a fixed income. In general, for everyone who might like to avoid the hassle of shopping or the distance, we make it easy and convenient for them to eat these delicious foods at home.
YPulse: Who are the brand’s biggest supporters? Are you finding that it is popular with young consumers?
HE: It really runs the gamut. Anyone who cooks semi-regularly or [cares about] wellness or their health or organics foods, it appeals to all of them. I think there’s a core contingent of families who have one or two kids in grade school that are just trying to streamline their household eating and budget. They don’t have to worry about the source of their food because we work with trusted organic, sustainable farms. They don’t have to worry about timing because it comes every week in the same amount of time and they don’t have to take an extra grocery trip. It’s also a source of excitement and entertainment when parents open that box with their kids.
We found that we have many households that have just one person or two. A lot of young people, especially people in cities, find it a hassle to schlep groceries everywhere. With urban customers, it is a great value proposition for them. Everyone has an increased focus on wellness, no one can afford to get sick working in the gig economy. People want to have an understanding of what’s fueling their body—and that’s not easy to do when you’re on a budget, but we make it easier for them to do.
YPulse: How are Millennials changing the grocery industry?
HE: Their needs and priorities have changed. People want to make the most of their time. Whatever it is they’re doing, they want to work for companies that make a difference. They want to support products that make a difference and have an impact. Transparency is another value that they’re really interested in. If something isn’t immediately clear at a grocery store-level of what they’re getting and where they’re getting it from—it can be a little off putting. The whole experience is also really cumbersome if a consumer has to drive and spend money on gas to get to the store if they’re not in a large city and then they have to fight the lines. It just feels like it’s full of inefficiencies and nothing suits them, whereas they’re an online generation who has grown up picking exactly what they want. So, why should groceries be any different? If they’re willing to put a little faith in a company that they’ll pick the best selection for them, it’s really no different than what has already happened at the grocery store-level. But we actually do bring things that they may not see at the grocery stores since we work with growers. We get these items semi-frequently that they wouldn’t have exposure to. Novelty is also important with this generation.
The amount of food content out there is also should be acknowledged. Everyone now is growing up and falling in love with these Bon Appetit Test Kitchen videos, and they see these delicious meals and want to recreate them. We’ve seen that Millennials love restaurants and the idea of eating out as well as experiences, but that doesn’t mean they have the money to do those on a regular basis so they may want to create these moments at home and invest the time and preparation into interesting and delicious things that they can share with friends to entertain them.
YPulse: Misfits Market was designed “to break the cycle of food waste.” Is food waste and environmental consciousness impacting young consumers’ shopping choices?
HE: Absolutely. Even down to our packaging, a lot of customers are dismayed by the amount of packaging that doesn’t revolve around these tiny portions. That isn’t the case with us. We are minimal. We’ve done our research and found the most eco-friendly, economical options out there. We’ll be rolling out even cooler things in the spring and are evolving to no plastic. All of our produce bags are home and municipal compostable, and our ice packs are getting a new vendor that functions as plant food. We’re conscious of that in every detail. Even in our delivery, we work with a logistics team that can find the most efficient route and we use carbon neutral trucks.
Customers are driven to us by their need to feel better about their consumer choices. We want to make people feel better about what they’re literally consuming in their body because it has fewer pesticides, and isn’t harming farmers either. They’re getting something that is doing a little bit of good, too. That’s a huge value proposition.
YPulse: Has social media presence played a part in Misfit Market’s success?
HE: It’s been huge, and I credit our CEO for crafting that strategy from the beginning. Who can help but get stopped in their tracks when they see a ridiculous potato that looks like a colon, or a veggie that has like appendages that could be taken a double-entendre, or adorably twisted carrots? It’s a conversation starter. It was key to our early success to make “thumb-stopping” content and to get people to notice us. It’s evolved to show the breadth of the box and help understand what they’re getting into. As we are growing internally, we share recipe content and story the testimonials from our customers and some staff stories to grow our social presence. Right now, we use it for a lot of education. Some people still don’t understand the difference between “spoiled’ or “goofy-looking” produce. We use a lot of real estate to do that, but we make sure we give people support, ideas, and resources to best utilize their box.
As far as our strategy, it’s all about making everything beautiful and modern—almost like a fashion-y treatment—and it’s been successful for us. There’s some vintage throwback in there from time-to-time.
One of the best performing posts we had was when we posted a green pepper that looked like it had—I call it a nose, you could call it something different—and I shot in my backyard and we posted it, and put a caption along the lines of: “If you’ve got this in your box, what would you do it?” From there, we let customers go wild. Someone responded saying: “I would post it on social and have all my friends make dirty comments about it.” We love to see our customers’ creative feedback, whether it’s funny quips or what they would want to make of something.
YPulse: What should brands know about Misfits Market?
HE: Authenticity and transparency is key, and those who make a good employee at our company like ours are the ones who are so passionate about it and who will advocate for their constituency. Our customer service team is 100% customer-focused. Every little thing we do impacts the customers. Your brand strategy and marketing should be very customer driven, and really should convey that passion that you have for your product. Because, if you don’t care, why should anyone care? We all truly care about what we’re doing, whether it’s sustainability, accessibility, or affordability, which are our or are three pillars. I think if your hearts are in the right place, that should speak for itself.
YPulse: What’s in the future for Misfits?
HE: As we grow, we’re looking to identify interesting partnerships that can help get us in front of the customers that we can create a meaningful lasting relationship. So whether that’s a co-brand with a fast casual place or with an item that shows you exactly how much you can save on organic food when it comes from Misfits or long term strategic partnerships with fleet philanthropies to further our mission in that respect, we know that will be key to developing our brand and growth in the future. We’re looking to grow not just geographically across the rest of the U.S., but in terms of the actual items that we have in our marketplace. We intend to be customers’ online affordable grocery source.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.