Last updated on May 3rd, 2021 at 08:17 pm
Whether it’s Amazon Fresh, Instacart, or just your neighborhood market, there are now a number of fast, reliable options vying to drop off your groceries. But what about sustainability-conscious shoppers who prefer to support local growers? Do they have no other options but to hoof it to a local farmers’ market?
Thanks to the rise of farm-to-table fresh produce boxes such as Imperfect Produce, Farm Fresh to You, and a growing list of newcomers, discerning shoppers can now get the convenience of home delivery without compromising their morals.
We’ve written about such produce box delivery subscription startups before, and as big fans, we are excited to see this movement continue to gain traction. Beyond helping local farmers, these startups also reduce food waste by selling items that otherwise would’ve been tossed.
Expanding their focus beyond organic vegetables and fruits to include other locally-sourced items such as coffee, olive oil, oats, and more, Imperfect Produce has since rebranded to Imperfect Foods. As the most established player in this space, their decision to expand delivery service to NYC this past October also demonstrates how popular the service is becoming.
As a result, companies like Misfits Market and Hungry Harvest have also arrived at the table. With nuanced tweaks on the general produce box concept, how do you determine which is right for you? In this post we’ll compare several of the top names head-to-head — Imperfect Foods vs Misfits Market vs Hungry Harvest — and help you differentiate their offerings to see which looks the most appetizing.
But first, which produce box service will deliver to you?
Produce subscriptions boxes are geographically constrained, and thus, to start, let’s determine which ugly produce box delivery can actually deliver to your area before getting too excited. These ugly food box services are growing rapidly and take consumer feedback seriously; Misfits Market even has a waitlist which they use to inform where to expand next! So if one of these services catches your eye, but isn’t available in your area just yet, check back in a few months. At that point, they very well might be!
Imperfect Foods service delivery area
The chart below shows Imperfect Foods’ expanded delivery area, which now includes 35 metro areas in 40 states. The company continues to expand at rapid clip, so if they aren’t in your neighborhood yet, rest assured they will be soon enough.
Misfits Market service delivery area
Misfits Market services started by delivering to most of the eastern seaboard. They have now expanded to 37 different states (including Washington DC). And Misfits, unlike Imperfect Produce or Hungry Harvest, deliver produce boxes to all zip codes –not just select urban metropolises — in the following states:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Hungry Harvest service delivery area
There is definitely some overlap with Hungry Harvest, which currently delivers produce boxes to:
- Greater Philadelphia
- Southern New Jersey
- Northern Delaware
- South Florida
- The Triangle Area & Charlotte in North Carolina
- The Detroit Metro Area
Do all of them offer box customizability?
Imperfect Foods and Hungry Harvest and Misfits Market all offer full box customizability.
While you can always opt to receive your shipment as is — many actually enjoy the surprise of not knowing what’s coming! — others with serious allergies or strong dietary preferences may require the more surgical approach. Keep in mind, however, that while all three allow you to specify the quantity and frequency of delivery, Misfits market currently offers the most flexibility around delivery times. They allow you to choose pretty much any slot Tuesday – Saturday, while Imperfect and Hungry Harvest have a much more narrow delivery windows. Thus for anyone needing more flexibility when it comes to delivery, Misfits Market is the best choice.
And how exactly does produce box customization work?
For Imperfect Foods, once you place an order, you’ll be given a heads-up a few days prior to the delivery date. You can then log back into your account to make any last minute edits. The website updates the prices on the final order as you go along so you can keep track of whatever you’ve added. And crucially, there’s no fee for customizing your order.
Personal anecdote: For my first order, I chose to go with the un-customized medium Green Box (mostly because I just forgot to customize before the window closed). Here’s what my receipt looked like:
|What’s Inside||Organic Produce|
|Organic Avocados (3 ct)||$2.78|
|Organic Carrots (1 lb)||$1.29|
|Organic Celery (1 ct)||$1.09|
|Organic Cilantro (1 ct)||$1.29|
|Organic Delicata Squash (2 ct)||$1.99|
|Organic Garlic (Organic Garlic) (2 ct)||$1.59|
|Organic Grape Tomatoes (1 ct)||$2.99|
|Organic Green Apples (3 ct)||$1.99|
|Organic Limes (5 ct)||$1.29|
|Organic Mango (1 ct)||$1.99|
|Organic Onions (2 ct)||$1.39|
|Organic Spinach Bunch (1 ct)||$1.99|
|Organic Zucchini or Yellow Squash (1 lb)||$1.99|
|Organic Pears (2 ct)||$1.29|
|Box Price: $29.94||$29.94|
At ~$25, I was satisfied with this price and it was comparable to what I end up paying on an average trip to the grocery store. I’ve been trying to experiment a lot with smoothies, so the veggies’ aesthetics were not super important to me, although when they arrived, none of them actually looked ‘ugly’ in any way. In fact, the produce was chilled, and all seemed…dare I say…100% fresh.
Overall, the box had everything I wanted, but going forward, I’ll probably customize because 5 limes is a lot (you don’t realize this when you see the $1.3 price tag), and apparently cilantro tastes like soap to my wife (?!). Didn’t know that was a thing…
The avocados were a little on the smaller side but paired nicely with the grape tomatoes for my avocado-on-toast breakfast. We probably got a lot more carrots than we regularly would’ve, but my grandmother used to say they’re excellent for enhancing eyesight, so I’m enjoying a good chomp with hummus.
Hungry Harvest, which also offers customization, has a “never list” which helps them track items you’ll never value as a consumer for future orders. They have a similar customization window prior to delivery, but charge a small fee to every customized order to offset sorting and packaging costs.
Both customization windows close two days before the delivery date, so this is something you will likely need to keep in mind if customization is important to you. Plus, this is probably the right time to research new recipes if you’ve decided to be adventurous for your upcoming box!
How much do you save with Imperfect or Misfits?
So, is Imperfect Foods or Misfits Market really cheaper? Saving money on your grocery bill is probably not the number one reason you try an ugly produce box subscription, but it could be a nice perk. Both Imperfect Foods and Misfits claim to save you cash – but is it true? In my experience, the produce and mix of foods are slightly cheaper than what’s available at my local grocery store. For me, on average, I’m saving around $7.50 per order. The more I order, and the more I carefully curate the items, the more I save. For example, there are sometimes very affordable meats and fish, and when I order those the savings can really add up. But if a pint of strawberries is 10 cents less expensive than at my grocery, there is not real savings. Keep in mind – if you shop at a low-cost grocery or buy in bulk from Costo, you probably aren’t going to be saving a ton of money.
How Ugly is an Ugly Produce Box?
Most of the produce that our editors have received from their ugly product boxes are surprisingly normal looking.
Probably the ugliest product we’ve received has been the carrot pictured to the right – it tasted delicious, but did look like something that might have come out of the upside down in Stranger Things.
Misfits Market vs Imperfect Produce vs Hungry Harvest: How do they compare on price?
These startups all position themselves to sell produce for less than your typical grocery store, not to mention the time savings of not having to physically waiting in line or pick up groceries. This was huge for us because we currently don’t have a car, so lugging bags of groceries nearly a mile each way was a serious chore.
If you’re looking for cheaper organic produce, these services are competitive because typical grocery stores mark up organic food to differentiate it from the non-organic/regular food. It’s also priced more attractively in this channel because these companies pass on discounts after purchasing food which would otherwise go uneaten – a win-win-win for consumers, producers, and society (with the reduction of deadweight loss… for all of you fellow Econ nerds out there 🤓).
Produce box pricing varies based on size and selection, but generally each delivery will set you back between $15-$30 and feed two people (see table below). Interestingly, they differ in the shipping fee, with Hungry Harvest offering free shipping for orders above $29.99. Here’s a handy chart to help you compare:
Misfits Market vs Imperfect Produce vs Hungry Harvest: Produce Subscription Boxes
|Introductory Discount||50% off your first box||$20 off your first box||$10 off your first box with code HARVEST10|
|Product Offerings||Fruits and vegetables, coffee and tea, meat and seafood, as well as pantry staples like flour and oil.||Fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, dairy, eggs, pantry items such coffee, olive oil||Fruits and vegetables, ‘weekly add-ons’ that may include eggs, grains, pantry items|
|Delivery Frequency Options||Weekly or biweekly||Weekly or biweekly||Weekly or biweekly|
|Shipping Costs||Flat $5.50||$4.99 – $9.99||Free for orders >$29.99; A small $1.99 – $3.49 delivery fee may be incurred for smaller orders|
|Areas of Service||38 states (all zip codes) + Washingtion D.C.||35 metro areas in 40 states (and counting)||Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, Greater Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey, Northern Delaware, South Florida, The Triangle Area & Charlotte in North Carolina & the Detroit Metro Area|
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How much do you care about where your food comes from?
When reviewing the Imperfect Foods website, I found that they had a helpful guide for each product that shows its associated “imperfection”. Many of the fruits and vegetables sourced seemed like they were in surplus supply for the original destination, while some products like Bob’s Red Mill Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats ($2.49) for example were available because the manufacturer went through a packaging change, and had excess inventory with old labels. They also offered a 12-pack of sea salt chocolate chip bars because incorrect packaging due to a printing error, allowing them to sell it for $16.99 instead of $29.89.
I also appreciated their honesty; for a few products, I saw the candid message: “there’s no food-waste story behind this item, but it’s part of our efforts to bring you more of the everyday staples you love at an affordable price.”
As far as sourcing goes, Imperfect Foods tries to source most of its produce locally and has strong ties to the produce hub of California (aka the world’s salad bowl). This year alone they’ve worked with 1,200 small food producers and farmers across the country.
Hungry Harvest, being on the east coast, works closely with suppliers in Jessup, the produce hub of the Mid-Atlantic used by Whole Foods. This positions them well to ‘rescue’ produce rejected because of mis-ordering, late truck delivery, as well as small cosmetic blemishes.
That said, all three companies share the common primary objective to reduce waste, so they will occasionally source from outside of the US (i.e. mostly from Mexico) if there’s food to be saved (and waste to be prevented.)
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What else do these services offer aside from produce and grocery delivery?
Imperfect, Misfits, and Hungry Harvest are all focusing heavily on building a community around their product and the consumer, and thus have a strong social media presence. Each also has a blog where the companies provide helpful cooking tips and recipes.
For example, the Imperfect Blog has a post which discusses ‘Everything you should know about cooking with Beets’ – something which can be helpful if beets are included in this week’s box. Hungry Harvest has a post on what to do with holiday leftovers to minimize waste, while Misfits Market published a piece on their Favorite Friendsgiving Recipes. I’ve found all the blogs and recipes to be super user friendly and am excited to try my hand at a Squash Soup!
Check out each of these blogs here:
Hungry Harvest Reviews
Hungry Harvest is a little different than Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market in that it has a number of reviews on Yelp — in fact, over 250. And its average rating is five stars by the reviewers, with people saying things like “Reliable delivery, good produce and the one time I had a problem they were very responsive. So glad we signed up…” and “Excellent customer experience, price and quality!!” The major negative reviews seem to be about the produce being too imperfect, rotten or not great.
Are there any introductory discounts for Imperfect Foods or Misfits Market?
Would we ask if there weren’t? 🙂 Since these companies are in their growth phase, they are all trying to win as much market share as possible, so it’s a really good time to be a consumer. All three of them offer some kind of incentive program or discount to get you started with their service.
You can get 50% off your first box from Misfits using this link!
If you order from Hungry Harvest, make sure to use the code HARVEST10 to get $10 off your first box.
Similarly with Imperfect Foods, you can also get $10 off your first box by clicking here. That’s meaningful since your box will likely only cost $20-30 total! There are also seasonal sales as well, so keep your eyes peeled for steeper discount codes as well.
The Verdict: Misfits Market vs Imperfect Foods vs Hungry Harvest
If you’ve made it this far, you have a good sense of each company’s offering and pricing, but might still be fuzzy around what really sets these companies apart in terms of their core mission and history so far.
The company has a two-pronged mission statement which focuses on making healthy food less expensive while also reducing food waste. By sourcing quality fruits and vegetables that stores can’t or won’t sell, they promise prices up to 40% less than you’d find in a traditional grocery store. They focus on helping farms find a market for the things they would grow and rescuing produce from the landfill.
Misfits prides themselves on delivering to both cities as well as rural areas, and working with smaller and mid-sized farms which generally lack infrastructure to sell ‘ugly’ produce before it goes bad. Thus they deliver to every zip code in the states they service, rather than just select cities. They also support farmer’s cooperatives that may struggle to make ends meet.
The company was founded in 2018 and employs hundreds of full-time employees. They’ve raised over $300m from top tier VCs like Accel, Sound Ventures, and Greenoaks Capital.
This is sure to be a breakout year for Misfits Market. They are expanding beyond just locally-source produce by launching a new add-on marketplace with products from sustainable brands for 25-50% off compared to buying the same items at the store, with all of the food being rescued from going to waste. Pretty cool, I must admit!
Review of Imperfect Foods
Imperfect Foods was founded in 2015 and focuses on eliminating food waste and building a better food system for everyone by offering imperfect (yet delicious) produce, affordable pantry items, and quality eggs and dairy. They are generally the same price or cheaper than most grocery stores, and have saved over 139,000,000 lbs of otherwise-wasted food since launch. They currently have 1,500 employees and serve 35 cities. They’ve also expanded to office catering services, if sustainable foods are potentially interesting to your co-workers.
The company has raised $229m in funding so far in five funding rounds, supported by Insight Partners, Norwest, Maveron, Shasta Ventures and NBA star Kevin Durant.
Review of Hungry Harvest
Hungry Harvest is was founded in 2014 and is a comparatively smaller company with around 50 employees and $525k in seed round funding. They are a graduate of the Conscious Venture Lab accelerator and if they look familiar, you may recall seeing them on Shark Tank in 2016, where they secured $100k from Robert Herjavec for a 10% stake.
In addition to reducing food waste, and offering the convenience of delivery, Hungry Harvest also has a goal to partner with student run ‘Produce in a SNAP’ organizations to wipe food deserts off the map in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and DC. The company accepts SNAP/EBT and cash through its Produce in a SNAP site and this is an area which sets Hungry Harvest apart from Imperfect and Misfits Market, as neither of those accept EBT/SNAP yet.
So, which produce subscription service is best: Imperfect, Misfits, or Hungry Harvest?
So far, Imperfect Foods seems to have captured a lot of early-adopters. As a result, they’ve been able to raise the most venture capital and arguably have evolved the most to fit most consumers’ overall grocery needs.
But I wouldn’t count out Misfits Market. They are slightly newer, but have secured significant runway for growth, and are going toe-to-toe with Imperfect by creating a waste-reducing marketplace for more than just produce.
Hungry Harvest is the smallest of the three, but is still a fantastic option that is doing a ton for local communities. They seem to have focused regionally following its early Shark Tank fame.
Ultimately, all three are equally convenient and offer similar quality. Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market offer a larger selection of goods compared to Hungry Harvest, but Hungry Harvest seems the most mission-driven.
Given that these services are somewhat geographically limited (at least for the time being), we think your choice should come down to one simple question: which service can bring you the best fresh food from the closest local farmers?
If you live in a rural area, that’s likely Misfits Market, who caters to all zip codes in the states they serve. (Click here to save 50% off your first box). If you’re in a big city, Imperfect Foods may be the better bet. If you live on the east coast, like supporting an underdog that’s not only tackling food waste prevention, but food desert elimination, Hungry Harvest is the way to go.
Whichever you choose, feel good about contributing to food waste reduction. You’ll be giving these so-called ‘ugly’ products a second chance! Have you experience locally-sourced produce subscription boxes? I’m sure there’s a lot more regional or community-based options that we’ve yet to cover, so please chime in in the comments below.
One parting thought on produce box subscriptions in general: keep in mind that you can totally choose the extent to which you want to rely on a produce subscription box. I’ve seen friends regularly skip their box when they know they have other plans or will be out of town. One friend even took advantage of each service’s introductory offer to enjoy meaningful discounts to groceries over a month and a half before making up his mind – not a bad strategy to acquaint yourself with the nuances of each before making a final decision!
Even if your current location is a factor which guides your decision one way or the other, don’t forget to sign up on company waitlists because you never know, they may just start delivering to you in 2021.