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Delivering Value to the Food System—and You

How Misfits Market plans to create a new food supply chain and eliminate food deserts in America by 2025

By Abhi Ramesh, Founder & CEO

Think back to the last time you visited the produce aisle of a grocery store. Did you notice how every apple seemed eerily identical? Farmers and gardeners will be the first to tell you that food rarely comes off orchards and fields looking so perfect or shelf-ready. In fact, it’s not really supposed to. So what happens to the rest of the apples from the same crop that aren’t uniformly pretty?

Here’s the distressing truth: Almost a third of what’s grown in the U.S. never even gets harvested because it doesn’t meet the superficial standards of traditional grocery stores. I saw this firsthand on a trip to a Pennsylvania orchard a few years ago when I was apple picking with friends. I noticed the fruit that looked a little different—too big or small, or just a little misshapen—was being collected and placed into storage bins. So I asked why. The reason? It didn’t meet the aesthetic standards that traditional grocers have had in place for decades. Standards that are all about keeping up appearances, not a reflection of nutrition or taste. Donating this supply was rarely an option for this particular grower (nor is it for many small farms). As a result, they scrapped almost 20,000 apples in any given season by their estimation.

Now imagine this happening at every farm across the country, across every variety of fruit and vegetable. That adds up to millions of pounds of delicious food that goes to waste every year when it could be going to a good home. Leaves a bad taste in your mouth, doesn’t it? Mine too. That’s why I founded Misfits Market two and a half years ago. To do something about it.

How it started, and how it’s going

A few weeks after that apple picking trip in August of 2018, I built the first Misfits Market site with my self-taught coding skills. Like the produce I was selling, the site wasn’t pretty, but people saw value in it. I also deliberately named us Misfits Market with something much bigger than ugly food in mind: A mission to create food access from the inefficiencies of the food system. I’d make that happen by building the first online grocery store in America to deliver real value by combining affordability, sustainability, and accessibility. 

Within a month, I launched Misfits Market’s delivery business in Philadelphia. I’d go to regional farms on the weekends with a rented pickup truck, fill it with fresh, organic produce that was “misfit” for one reason or another, box it up in my home, and deliver it myself via Uber. Saving up to 40% on organic produce proved popular, as did the ads featuring funny-looking veggies that stopped people in their tracks as they scrolled through Facebook and Instagram. 

My goal wasn’t just to stick to concentrated urban areas. Within a few months, we had expanded to five states and were serving tens of thousands of customers, cutting out the middleman and passing on savings to customers. Many of our initial customers lived in zip codes where no one else delivered fresh produce, especially at the savings we were offering. Even if only 100 people in an underserved location wanted access, we firmly believed—and still believe—that they deserved it, and we built out fulfillment and shipping processes to meet them where they were. 

At first, customers had no choice within their subscription produce box, just a “mystery” assortment of fresh, organic fruits and veggies. But we soon built up a large network of direct relationships with farmers who needed ways to be paid for the excess or misfit food they worked to grow. (Farms don’t always have the infrastructure to send excess items to production facilities or donate to food banks.) Today, customers can have their pick of seasonal produce from dozens of partners committed to fighting waste at scale, like California’s Lakeside Organic Gardens, as well as smaller outfits that don’t always have resources to aggregate supply for quick sale. One of our original suppliers, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative in Pennsylvania, not only remains a vendor partner to this day but their free box program for people facing hunger has also been a beneficiary of customers’ donations when they want to skip their Misfits Market box. 

Next, we set our sights beyond farm-level waste and onto packaged goods, offering items that were surplus or may have had packaging changes that made them unsuitable for grocery stores. When you shop Misfits Market today, you’ll find a curated selection of more than 250 varieties of organic produce and sustainably sourced groceries—including our newest addition of meats, seafood, and plant-based proteins. And it’s only growing from there.

An opportunity to serve 

As our grocery assortment has expanded, we’ve also devised creative ways to support producers who struggled in the middle of the pandemic. From rescuing premium popcorn destined for movie theaters to pioneering an entire waste recovery program with a bean-to-bar organic chocolate maker, we’re always seeking new opportunities to create a value exchange for both suppliers and consumers. We’re also creating a new upcycled product stream, working with seed-based food company 88 Acres to rescue edge pieces of their tray-baked Seed+Oat Bars, which are served on JetBlue flights, and repacking them for convenient snacking

Even as we’re making strides with our own supply chain, the food system at large is not getting better or more efficient. Uncertainty around supply and demand means that growers and producers are forced to take on more risk and potentially get stuck with excess product that threatens to go to waste. That’s because grocery stores are now requiring farmers to commit to growing much more than normally planned so they’re insulated from the supply shocks that led to empty shelves during the pandemic. Similarly, meat producers are asked to double down on the supply of the most popular cuts, leaving less popular cuts with no easy outlet or consumer base. 

And yet, with the glut of food on the market, food prices have continued to rise 2-3 percent a year on average for the past 20 years. In 2020, they went up a whopping 3.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with more people eating at home last year. Consumers bear the brunt of this inflation. People in food deserts suffer. And lessons continue to go unlearned. 

My vision is for another path, one that can solve for rising costs and the limited reach of food in the current system, and that can drive value directly to suppliers and consumers. 

What powers us and where we’re going next

It’s simple: We are obsessed with creating the new food value supply chain. We lead with technology, put our producers front and center, and focus on our reach into communities where consumers have traditionally faced limited choices. This obsession with creating a new, improved food supply chain is what helps us stay committed to our mission of delivering high-quality products at a good value. 

Because of our focus on sustainability, accessibility, and affordability, growth oozes out of every part of the business. We’re hitting some big milestones this week alone. Our first group of customers received quality meats, seafood, and plant-based proteins in their boxes on Monday, and today we’re expanding into Washington and Oregon, making our delivery map truly bicoastal. Just two more steps toward our goal of expanding into every major grocery category and distributing across every underserved area nationwide. 

To continue to make an impact, we’ll be doubling our team (currently more than 1,000 employees) by the end of the year to fortify our product and operations teams and ensure the best possible experience for customers. We’ll also be making some big investments in tech that continue to optimize our logistics and drive the growth of our business. It’s not enough to be able to move fast. Our machine has to be powered by some pretty impressive logistics and fulfillment tech under the hood to operate at scale with a growing assortment. If you had any doubt about our ability to scale, consider that in the first four months of 2021 alone, Misfits Market has rescued the same amount of food as we saved in all of 2020.

Giving back will also remain core to our mission. Last year, we donated more than 120,000 pounds of fresh food to communities in need. Misfits Market partnered with Philly-based Sharing Excess on a food scholarship program to reach under-resourced students in the Greater Philadelphia area. Our team has also worked with Wellness in The Schools to get food-insecure families in Camden, NJ set up with fresh food delivery on a weekly basis. Finally, in 2020 and into this year, we’ve sponsored community fridges throughout the Northeast in communities that face food insecurity to keep them supplied and well-stocked with fresh produce. We care so much about access because we know that it’s the key to healthier communities. “Prescriptions” for healthy foods might save more than $100 billion in healthcare costs, according to one new study, but it’s also about a more equitable distribution of resources to all. That keeps us laser-focused on our goal of eliminating food deserts in America by 2025.

I remain just as committed to providing affordable access to quality foods today as I was when I hand-delivered our first boxes back in 2018. As we evolve, it’s the same mission: give everyone access to quality food, delivered in an affordable and sustainable way. It’s just a little bigger than it was before. 

If you haven’t yet joined us, I invite you to come along for the ride. It’s a pretty gratifying and delicious one. I’ll even give you an incentive: 30% off your first order through April 30, 2021 with code GROW30.

Comments (42)

Hi, MP. We’re sincerely sorry you still haven’t heard from our customer success team, we know how frustrating this is. Our customer success team is working through an increased number of support tickets, but rest assured that they will get to every single one in the order received. Our customer success team has confirmed they have received your support request and want to assure you that they haven’t forgotten you. We appreciate your patience as they work this for you, they will be reaching out as soon as they can.

I have appreciated your customer support team; if something needed to be fixed, it was. It may have taken some time, but I have had missing items refunded. I wish there was a way to reply to your founder, or up the people chain at Misfits, that they were somehow able to influence regular grocery stores to keep unexpired items from being tossed in the dumpster! I would hope other stores would develop the social consciousness of Misfits. NO ONE should have to look in a dumpster for food!!

Thank you for sharing this feedback, Lori. We’re so glad to hear our customer success team has been able to help with any past issues! We truly appreciate your kind words and continued support. We agree–everyone should have access to food that’s both high-quality and affordable. Thanks for being along for this ride with us, rescuing produce and reducing food waste! 💛

I retract my earlier statement… our delivery out here sucks… I just got the box today it was delivered to another address!!! Thanks now they know where to bring my orders!!!!

We’re so happy to hear you received your order, Lisa! Thank you for keeping us updated. If you ever have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team. Our support is there for you and always happy to help. 😊

Hi, Patricia. Thank you so much for your interest! This link is a great place to start: 
https://www.misfitsmarket.com/sign-up

We have a hybrid offering: one part subscription, one part a la carte shopping. Everyone who signs up for Misfits Market subscribes to a base level of organic fruits and veggies delivered every week (or biweekly). Additionally, subscribers get access to shop our discounted Marketplace to build out a full grocery box before their scheduled delivery of produce. 

We offer a small starter box (The Mischief), or larger one (The Madness) with a wider variety of organic fruits and veggies. This is the minimum amount of food delivered on either a weekly or biweekly basis. Everyone has the option (and is highly encouraged) to customize their produce preferences so they get more of what they like in each box. Then, Each subscriber gets a special shopping window to add more to their grocery box. Cooking staples, dry goods, or specialty produce—all 25-50% off store prices. Each week we add new brands to our discounted Marketplace.
From there, you’ll be asked to choose either weekly or biweekly delivery, then give us your shipping address. 

We hope this helps! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns about setting up your subscription. Our customer success team is always here to help with any requests submitted through our contact form https://www.misfitsmarket.com/contact-us.

I just received my box of goodies & I cannot thank you enough . The vegetables & fruit were perfect & the packing of the delicate fruits was PERFECT. Thank you , I’m excited to order my next box of goodies. Also the delivery was spot on , delivered when they said it would & very pleasant delivery person. Thank you for all

We are so happy you’re loving your haul of goodies, Florence! Thank you for sharing your awesome experience and welcome to our Misfits family! 🥰️

I still haven’t received anything even though the money was taken out of my account and still getting ghosted and no one has ever answered me back on when to expect the shipment… here I thought I was doing something good and I’m confused on why I haven’t even heard anything!! I’m on disability and barely able to afford rent I don’t have money to throw away every month!!

Just received my box today.It is beautiful!.I would want to select for my next box,is there a way I may do that.I did see a list but,not able to find.could you assist .Thank you Paula

We’re happy to help, Paula! Your selection window for Marketplace and Customization items will vary based on your charge date. The selection window is typically the 3-day period prior to your charge date. Please refer to your account page for the most current information on your charge dates and selection window.

Once your selection window has opened, you will be able to make your selections from your account page. The Marketplace can be shopped starting at 4pm ET on the first day of your selection window and will close at 8pm ET on the last day of your selection window.

We also have a help center article that can walk you through step by step with screenshots: https://help.misfitsmarket.com/en_us/how-to-customize-your-order-HyJp_gXmP

If you have any further questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team (http://www.misfitsmarket.com/contact-us). They are there for you and always happy to help.

I received my box however I did not get what I ordered. I also received items that I did not order. This is quite disappointing.

Hi, Christibe. We’re very sorry to hear that your box didn’t meet your expectations! We understand how this is disappointing, and we sincerely apologize for the experience. We’d like for our customer success team to address this as soon as possible for you. Can you please submit a support ticket using our contact form http://www.misfitsmarket.com/contact-us? They will look into making it right and use your feedback to better the Misfits Market experience!

I have been a subscriber for many months. At first we loved the boxes and looked over the items destroyed in shipping. Now, when the box arrives, I automatically know that 2 or 3 items will go directly to our compost bin. Not only are items destroyed in shipping – tender items thrown in under the weight of a pineapple or the heavy cold pack – but many items are shipped when they are already beginning to rot. Some items, particularly limes and lemons, last only two or three days before turning. The IDEA of Misfits is brilliant. The QUALITY CONTROL is very weak. Customer service has always responded to my emails about inedible items and promptly offered a refund. However, we are ordering smaller boxes less frequently as a result of these problems. Shelf stable items now fill most of my box, which is not why I subscribed to an all-organic, minimize-food-waste subscription. PLEASE fix these issues, because your business model has such great potential! I am hanging in there hoping for improvements!

Hi, Pam. We’re very sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing issues with damaged produce! We want our customers to love their orders and our service overall, and we regret to hear that we missed the mark. This is definitely not the experience we want you to have, as we pack all of our items fresh in the hopes that they make it to you that way. We also never send fresh produce that isn’t edible or in good condition, so we’d like to look into what is happening during transit. If you could let our support team know about this, they’ll be sure to get to the bottom of what’s happening and address your concerns. Please reach out using our contact form here: https://www.misfitsmarket.com/contact-us. We want to make sure you are enjoying all of your produce!

A good post. I’m a new customer to Misfits. Hopefully, i won’t encounter what you’ve gone through.

When will we receive information on where the seafood and other protein products are being sourced? Especially considering it is nearly impossible to source sustainable seafood, if not literally impossible.

Are these new protein offerings based on excess supply that would have otherwise gone to waste, or is this simply an expansion from the original mission of Misfits Market to create a more profitable business model? Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with expanding the model and making more money… but it is very important to be transparent about what is simply direct to consumer produce offerings, and what is actively making a difference in the area of food waste.

To condense the last paragraph, why are you expanding to provide protein offerings, and what about your sourcing of these contributes to the food waste problem?

Thank you for inquiring about this, Michael. Affordable, high-quality meats and seafood are something you’ll be seeing more of as we grow, which is why we’re happy to provide transparency behind this expansion. Misfits Market strives to work with farmers and food makers who share our vision for a more sustainable food system—and we’ll continue to do so. That’s not going to change. But, as a mission-driven company committed to giving everyone access to affordable, quality food, we’re making it a priority to give customers more choice. Whether meat has a home on your plate regularly, or just every once in a while, we believe you deserve better options and transparency around how it was raised and where it comes from. Expanding to a fuller assortment that’s inclusive of a variety of dietary preferences helps even more people avoid trips to the grocery store and helps support sustainable suppliers of animal-based proteins. We’ve conducted an exhaustive search for producers that meet our high quality standards.

Eating meat is a choice that has implications within our food system, and each individual product has even more complexity when it comes to sustainability. We’ve hand-picked suppliers that have found innovative ways to minimize environmental impact by avoiding industrialized farming while still making high-quality products that are affordable. For example, pork from our supplier, Niman Ranch, is humanely and sustainably raised by small independent family farmers. Our beef supplier, Strauss (Meadow Reserve label), supports and encourages sustainable grazing and pasture management. And Diestel, our turkey supplier, has adopted regenerative agriculture practices at its on-farm compost yard.

That said, if there’s any feedback or other questions that you’d like to share regarding this, please feel free to let us know by reaching out here: http://www.misfitsmarket.com/contact-us. Our support team is always happy to help!

S0 happy to have discovered Misfits Market! I live in a very rural place and am elderly and this is an answer to my prayers! Every item I choose is in great shape!

We’re so happy to have you as part of our community, Lucy! This is what it’s all about for us, providing access to fresh, organic produce no matter where you are located. Thank you so much for your support 💛

Speaking on customer service: I have had two interactions for minor problems with my orders. Both times, I got timely replies and more than I expected in restitution. I admire the mission of this company and I enjoy by bi-weekly boxes.

We’re so happy to read this, Judith! We deeply apologize about any past issues, but we’re thrilled to know that our customer success team was able to help. Thank you so much for sharing this feedback and for your support. We hope you continue to enjoy your bi-weekly hauls of Misfits 💛

It’s like Christmas every week when my box is delivered! Everything I order is in great shape…

Regarding Customer Service, I couldn’t be more satisfied. We’ve had a couple of issues beginning with frozen produce back in the February Big Freeze and then some missing items. We were refunded fully both times. So, thank you, Customer Service.

We appreciate you sharing this feedback, Daryl! Our customer success team is always dedicated to serving all our customers to make sure they get the most out of Misfits Market. Thank you for your support 💛

One thing you could do to make higher quality food more available to people who really need it ,,, is to allow people to pay you with food stamps. I have asked Misfits about this and have been told that you are planning to do this ,,, but I don’t see any evidence of that. It wasn’t mentioned in your goals at all. Let me tell you just how important this is:
1) Since the time I became disabled, I have made use of food stamps – and I am very, very grateful for this program. Most commercial grocery stores accept food stamps also known as SNAP.
2) In MA the SNAP program also has a supplemental component called HIP, which reimburses a percentage of our food stamps if we spend them in Farmer’s Markets or on farms.
3)In addition, I receive part of my STIMULOUS through the SNAP program, which almost doubles my usual snap allotment.
4) So always, but especially right now, it does not make sense for me to spend my general income on food when I am receiving SNAP.
5) Not all Farmers Markets take SNAP or HIP, but I’ve found a CSA organic farm nearby that does. I’m trying to keep my MISFITS up to date, hoping that in the FALL when the CSA shares are no longer available, maybe you will start accepting my SNAP. If you do that sooner, I may still be able to participate in both – depending on STIMULOUS.

Thank you so much for sharing this feedback with us, Deb. We are definitely working hard to bring on SNAP as a payment method as quickly as we can. Please stay tuned, as we understand that this is something our customers would like to see. We truly appreciate your patience as we work to bring new and better features for our customers to enjoy. If you haven’t done so already, please make sure you’re signed up for our email newsletter located on our website, so we can reach out to you when this launches!

As a vegan I rely on Misfits Market and am bummed when the delivery is screwed up. But the customer service is great and I love the “sometimes perfect” fruits and veggies.

Thank you for letting us know, Gudrun. We understand that all of our subscribers, regardless of when they joined, depend on us as their go-to, convenient source for fresh, organic food during this time. Please rest assured, we’re always working hard to make things better for everyone. That said, we’re so glad to hear our support team has always been able to help and resolve any issues. We hope you continue to enjoy all of your delicious produce hauls 😊

I have been a customer but now finding difficult building my box. Has the system changed. I liked getting my veggies every other week

Hi, Peter. We recently updated our shopping experience and removed the restrictions of the Mischief/Madness base box! You should have received an email detailing all of the important changes, and you can also find this information here: https://help.misfitsmarket.com/en_us/our-new-one-stop-shopping-experience–ByBMDTKd. We’d love to hear any of your feedback on this new experience. Please submit a request using our contact form: http://www.misfitsmarket.com/contact-us. Our support team is always happy to help and they will use your feedback to better the Misfits Market experience!

Hi How do you change the delivery day you originally chose to a different day?

Happy to help, Tammy! If you’d like to make changes to your subscription, please log in and visit your account page here: https://www.misfitsmarket.com/account. Then, click “Manage Subscription.” On the right side of the page, you’ll be able to change your subscription preferences—preferred day, frequency, and box size. Or, scroll down to “need a break?” to skip, pause, or cancel.

If you need any further assistance with this, please don’t hesitate to submit a request using our contact form, https://www.misfitsmarket.com/contact-us. Our support team is always happy to help!

Many of your existing customers are getting shipped rotten, old and damaged produce with ridiculous quantities with the new system. There were enough problems with the old system.
Are you shipping the customers in the new states the edible produce no then packing boxes to the existing customers with what is left in the bins that is old?
Ordering by eaches only works for customers if they know exactly how many they will get. Offering produce with quantities of 1-3, 2-4, etc is ridiculous! Some of your customers have received one carrot when ordering a “bunch” of carrots and others have received 1 potato and yet others received a few stalks of celery pulled off a bunch of celery. Why one earth is this happening? You can’t even ship edible fresh produce to your existing customer base, yet you’re expanding! I’ve seen many in one of the FB groups cancel their membership. Many more will cancel…..maybe your new customer base will exceed the cancellations??? It’s just not a good way to do business!
If you’re going to be an online grocery store, why not sell by the pound instead of having pissed off customers???

Hi, Linda. This is definitely not the experience we want our customers to have! All of our customers are very important to us, including you, and we pack all of our items in great condition in the hopes that they make it to our customers that way. As we continue to grow, it’s important to us that our original customers feel just as valued as the new ones. We understand that all of our subscribers, regardless of when they joined, depend on us as their go-to, convenient source for fresh, organic food during this time. This is why we work hard to bring the freshest organic produce straight to our customers’ homes.

That said, we truly appreciate your feedback and we’re always working hard to improve our service for everyone. If there’s anything we can do to make it right, please do not hesitate to let our support team know. Our customer support team is always happy to help, so we invite you to reach out to them using our contact form, http://www.misfitsmarket.com/contact-us. They will look into making it right and use your feedback to better the Misfits Market experience!

We appreciate your feedback and interest, Joyce! While we currently don’t accept EBT/SNAP as payment, we are actively working on a pilot program that will allow you to use them as payment methods. To be notified when this launches, please sign up for our email newsletter.

I just got my first box and it’s beautiful! Thank you Misfits for your mission and your service, you’ve got a long term customer with me!

Woohoo! 🙌 Welcome to our community, Susan. We’re so glad to have you. 🥰️

Comments are closed.