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Produce rescue efforts eye Western Canadian expansion

In a time when consumers have pressing concerns about the price of their groceries, one Canadian company is seeing traction in its direct-to-consumer produce rescue delivery model.

Odd Bunch has been in business for two years, though the business originally operated under the name Food Fund. The premise? Consumers can order small, medium, or large boxes of imperfect produce to deliver weekly to their homes. "So we're rescuing produce that's irregular or off-spec and consumers can pick from a fixed menu model," says Aditya Ojha, CEO of Odd Bunch. The boxes can be all fruit, mixed fruit, and vegetable, and there are organic and juice options as well on the menu that changes weekly.

The produce is sourced from a network of more than 30 partnerships with farmers, greenhouses, and wholesalers at the Ontario Food Terminal in Etobicoke, Ontario. "We connect with them over the week and they provide produce that they are rejecting based on anything from logistical issues, barcode errors, maybe sometimes there's a surplus," says Ojha. "Then we curate the menu based on what is available."

Expansion into B.C.
While the delivery service is largely distributing boxes of produce within Ontario, it is also delivering in Montreal and other parts of Quebec. Now, it is also looking to expand into the British Columbia market by the end of September.

While there are other smaller operators running similar services, the company's premise is what sets Odd Bunch apart. "There are a lot of produce delivery services out there. However, reducing food waste is what's different here," says Ojha.

That also takes a bit of educating the consumer about the types of produce that go into the boxes. "We're trying to teach them about why for instance, discoloration of items doesn't really matter because you're going to eat them anyways," says Ojha.

Why subscribers subscribe
While the business has seen steady growth since 2021, it has even more so recently following headlines around Canadian consumers boycotting large retailers such as Loblaws over pricing concerns. "Post-COVID, things have been getting expensive, logistics are expensive and grocery stores are expensive," he says. "Given the price point we're at, consumers feel they are saving money. However, I think the biggest reason they're loyal to us is because they feel they are helping farmers and reducing food wastage and supporting the environment."

That growth is happening within larger city markets such as Toronto and Ottawa. However, it also has subscribers within the rural regions as well. "It's more about being in touch and supporting the farmers for them," says Ojha. Demographically, the majority of its customers are between the ages of 32-38 years old. "They have busy lives but they are also good with digital shopping," he says, noting that while Gen Z is also part of the subscriber base and perhaps learning about the business via the company's robust social media presence, the 40+ crowd is as well, whether it's them shopping for themselves or their children shopping for them to accommodate mobility issues for example.

With that eye on expansion, Odd Bunch recently exhibited for the first time at CPMA 2024 in Vancouver. "We attended the event to connect with more partners, particularly in that new market and we got a big response from a lot of partners," says Ojha. "At the show, the logistics aspect also came in handy and we're looking to build partnerships with them as well. There's wastage there as well with off-spec boxes that we can use or logistically speaking, trailers that come in empty. So we're trying to look into that."

For more information:
Aditya Ojha
Odd Bunch
[email protected]