Imperfect Foods has come a long way since it was known as Imperfect Produce. The quality of its food has risen, and it now offers a much wider selection of kitchen staples.
Perhaps most importantly, it finally allows you to customize your grocery box deliveries. Gone are the days of “you get what you get,” which for us, was a major deterrent.
Yet, like its produce, Imperfect Foods has its share of “imperfections”. Some of its flaws are nothing more than slight blemishes. Others are a bit uglier.
In this review, we’ll take a look at the new and mostly improved Imperfect Foods, and see how its prices and quality stack up against other grocers.
What is Imperfect Foods?
Imperfect Foods is an online grocery store and delivery service committed to solving the pressing problem of food waste.
It accomplishes this by offering a changing lineup of sustainably sourced groceries, many of which would have been otherwise thrown away due to their imperfections or inability to be sold.
The exact imperfections vary by product, but may include:
- Surface scarring
- Irregular shapes
- Small sizes
- Nearing the “best by” date, which is not an exact indicator of food safety
- Foods made from upcycled ingredients
- Packaging errors/changes
- Surplus — not really an imperfection, but still rescued
The idea is that foods with cosmetic imperfections are perfectly safe to eat and just as delicious as those sold in grocery stores. Yet, grocers don’t want them because they look unsightly. This is where Imperfect Foods steps in.
From the detective’s desk: The company claims that customers should never “receive produce that’s bruised, damaged, broken, or moldy.” Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but in our experience, it happens rarely enough to be a forgivable offense.
Imperfect Foods used to be known as Imperfect Produce but rebranded in October 2019. Along with the name change came an expansion of its business model. In addition to conventional and organic produce, it now sells a variety of frozen meats, pantry items, milk, eggs, and quite a bit more.
Where does it get its food?
The majority (nearly 80%) of Imperfect’s produce is sourced from family farms, mainly based out of California. This effectively allows the company to cut out the middleman, and reduce first waste.
Imperfect Foods makes it clear that it does not accept food that would otherwise go to food banks. If anything, it’s become a leader in providing food to those in need, with 3.6 million pounds of food donated in 2020.
Lately, the company has been focused on creating its own branded products. Many of these are made with leftovers from the Imperfect Foods warehouse. For instance, on any given week you may find marinated chicken tenders made from breast trimmings or chocolate bars doused with cashew bits and pieces.
How does Imperfect Foods work?
Imperfect Foods can be accessed directly through its website or via its Android and iOS mobile apps.
One of the first questions you’ll be asked during sign-up is your zip code. This is to check if the service is available in your area. Imperfect Foods only uses its own delivery drivers, which severely limits its reach.
It currently delivers to parts of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, West Coast, and Midwest. Most western and southern regions, with the notable exceptions of eastern Texas and most of Louisiana, are out of luck.
Here’s a current map of Imperfect Foods’ delivery coverage.
As the company grows, we expect it to expand its delivery scope.
Delivery times and the shopping window
If you are eligible for delivery, you’ll be asked a few questions about your family size and food preferences. Then, you’ll be given your delivery day.
To cut down on waste, and presumably costs, Imperfect Foods only delivers on one day of the week. The exact day will depend on where you live. For us, it’s Tuesday (we live in the Northeast), but it can be any day between Monday and Saturday.
You’re supposed to get your order before 9 pm on your delivery day. So far, we’ve always received them well before the deadline, typically between 11 am and 4 pm. No problems there.
Imperfect charges $5.99 (up from $4.99 effective 3/31/22) on all subtotals below $60. If your order is above that threshold, then it ships for free.
About five days prior to your delivery date, the shopping window opens. For instance, if your delivery day is Thursday, then the shopping window should open on Saturday. Once the window opens, you’ll be able to see what items Imperfect Foods has this week.
For roughly the next three days, you can customize your cart. Unfortunately, once the window closes, your order is set, and no further amendments can be made.
This system honestly takes a bit of getting used to, and we do wish it was more flexible.
The prefilled cart
At sign-up, Imperfect will also ask you about your food preferences. For better or worse, Imperfect doesn’t dive too deeply into your dietary desires, as rival Thrive Market does.
Instead, you’ll be asked basic questions like if you prefer conventional or organic food, or are on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Imperfect Foods uses your answers to prefill your cart.
While we didn’t necessarily have an issue with Imperfect filling our cart for our first delivery, it does this every week. Most of the time you’re just going to replace the items in your cart, so the whole process seems a bit unnecessary.
A bigger problem is that unless you manually skip your next order(s), Imperfect will deliver whatever is in your cart when the shopping window closes. This is inconvenient and feels a bit like a cash grab. What if you accidentally forget to log in during your window?
From the detective’s desk: To skip your next order(s), go to “Manage Subscriptions” located in the Main Menu. Click/tap “Skip next order.” Then you’ll be given the option to skip any of your next six orders. You can also cancel your subscription.
Imperfect Foods box sizes
Once you’re a member of Imperfect Foods, you’re free to customize your delivery box size. This will determine how the company prefills your cart, and in theory, should reduce the amount of time it’ll take to customize your order.
You can pick from one of four box types: Regular (conventional foods), All Fruit, All Veggie, and Organic. As a member, you also can select a Small, Medium, Large, or Extra Large box.
Thankfully, there’s also an option to set the frequency of your orders to every week or biweekly.
Finally, you can add on Packs. These cost an average of $9.99 per delivery and consist of either dairy, snacks, or meat & fish, based on your selection. You’re free to tack on multiple packs.
Box sizes range from roughly 7-9 pounds for a Small Box, up to 23-25 pounds for a large. Imperfect Foods provides more details in its FAQ. Here’s an example of Organic Box sizes and prices.
From the detective’s desk: Is Imperfect Foods a subscription service? Yes and no. It’s free to join, but unless you opt out, you’re committed to weekly or biweekly orders. It sort of exists in a weird middle ground between an open format and a full-blown subscription service.
Again, all of this feels a bit unnecessary, since you’ll probably want to customize your order. However, if you’re adventurous (but not too adventurous), you can use these options to save time while still gaining some control over your order.
The Imperfect Foods interface
Clean looking and intuitive, the Imperfect Foods interface makes customizing your cart about as simple as it gets. And yes, you can customize your order to your heart’s content.
The UI functions very similarly on desktop and mobile, with just a few changes to optimize it for smaller screens.
Foods are categorized by type, and while there isn’t an extensive filtering system, it’s not really necessary, since Imperfect carries a fairly smallish collection of products. You can filter by diets such as organic, vegetarian, gluten-free, and non-GMO, but that’s about it.
Each item is represented by a clear icon, which displays the brand name, a brief description, the price, and an option to add the item directly to your cart. It also shows the item’s imperfection, if there is one, which is a nice touch.
Click into an item to learn where it’s from, how it was saved, along with other pertinent details. Imperfect even describes how the item will be shipped. It’s all very thorough.
With Imperfect Foods, there is no need to checkout, since your order is processed automatically once the shopping window closes. However, you will have to enter your payment information.
Imperfect only accepts major U.S. credit/debit cards, and pre-paid Visa cards at this time. In a world where most online stores accept numerous payment methods, Imperfect Foods is woefully behind the times.
Imperfect Foods new customer discount
Imperfect Foods offers customers one of the best welcome packages of any online grocery store.
New users can receive 33% off of their first 3 Imperfect orders. The discount is applied to your subtotal, and you’ll find the promo code in your inbox after signing up.
From the detective’s desk: We initially received an offer for 33% off our first two orders, and initially skipped our first order to see if Imperfect Foods would up the ante. They did. Patience is key.
What’s also nice, is that Imperfect will still ship your items for free as long as your subtotal before the discount is $60+. For instance, if you buy $75 worth of groceries, you’ll only pay $50, but will still receive free shipping.
What groceries does Imperfect Foods carry?
Imperfect Foods breaks its food down into the following categories:
- Produce: Fruits, vegetables, and prepared produce
- Meat & Fish: Poultry, seafood (including shellfish), beef, bison, lamb, sausage, and pork
- Dairy & Deli: Cheese, eggs, milk & cream, yogurt, deli meats, refrigerated pasta and soups, condiments, and dips
- Alternatives: Plant-based meats, dairy alternatives like oat milk, cashew mozzarella, and plant-based cheeses
- Snacks: Dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, candy, salty snacks, snack mixes, rice cakes, and bars
- Pantry: Baking, canned & jarred goods, grains, rice, noodles, oils, dressing, spreads, herbs & spices, soups & stocks, cereal, oats, and breakfast bars
- Beverages: Functional beverages, coffee, tonic, sparkling water, soda, tea, and juices
- Bakery: Bread, buns, bagels, sweet treats, wraps, tortillas, and flatbreads
- Home & Health
As we scrolled through Imperfect’s virtual aisles, we definitely noticed some trends, both favorable and unfavorable.
- Its selection of fruit isn’t all that extensive. clocking in at about 20 in-stock items. The vegetable selection was better (~50 items), but nothing to brag about.
- Imperfect sells both organic and conventional produce, but its selection is not necessarily in adherence with the dirty dozen. For a company that emphasizes produce first and other groceries second, we expected a bit more.
- We also noticed that a majority of Imperfect’s products don’t actually list any imperfections. Also, Imperfect Foods branded products now make up a large portion of its store. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes you wonder if it’s transitioning its business model from “ugly produce” to buying up surplus and repurposing it.
- The meat section is solid, and most products are either organic, wild-caught, or pasture-raised, but the selection is a bit thin. The same goes for the milk, yogurt, and eggs sections.
- The cheese selection is extensive and surprisingly affordable. Imperfect also offers an abundance of snacks, and most of these do fall under the “imperfect” category.
- The pantry section is by far the largest, offering well over 100 items.
A transitional phase
Imperfect Foods currently feels like it’s having a bit of an identity crisis. It started out as a fruits & veggies market for ugly produce. Now, it’s caught halfway between a larger farmer’s market, and a mid-sized grocery store.
Also, its selection borrows elements from both organic grocers like Whole Foods and Thrive Market, and more conventional outlets like Walmart and Aldi’s, without being nearly as big as any of them.
Imperfect Foods packaging
The way Imperfect Foods packages its deliveries needs some work.
On the plus side, the cardboard box your order comes in is both compostable and recyclable. As a testament to this, our town’s recycling department picks it up every time, no questions asked.
The box is also sturdy and can easily handle the weight of 20 lbs of groceries.
The ice packs that Imperfect uses are large and also recyclable. And we’re big fans of the lining bags since they keep food reasonably cold and are reusable.
From the detective’s desk: You can even leave out the ice pack, lining bags, and green carton liners at the time of your next order, and Imperfect will take them away for you. They’ll then be sanitized and reused or recycled.
That’s the good part. Now for the ugly.
The produce is kind of just thrown in the box, making it susceptible to breakage and other damage. In the rare case that a fruit or vegetable is moldy or rotten, it’s probably touched every other produce item in the box. Not good.
While we can appreciate the lack of plastic, there has to be a better way. Cardboard wrapping perhaps, or a more environmentally friendly bagging system? At least the eggs and other extremely fragile items are wrapped.
Another negative is that our frozen meats are always mixed in with other refrigerated items. That’s just asking for cross-contamination problems, especially since the frozen items can come dangerously close to thawing out.
From the detective’s desk: Typically, you get a text message a few hours before your delivery notifying you that it’s on the way. From that time forward you can track your package. We strongly recommend being home when it arrives. Leave your phone on!
Worse yet, sometimes the cold storage items are resting on top of some produce.
Imperfect Foods needs to work out its packaging kinks, for its own benefit and for the benefit of its customers.
Sloppy packaging aside, the quality of food that we receive from Imperfect Foods is generally quite good, falling somewhere in between what we’d expect from a local grocery store and a premium farmer’s market.
Some favorites include:
- Organic cucumber ($1.99): Listed as small, but is usually as large as what we purchase from Whole Foods
- Organic grape tomatoes ($3.99): Delicious and in perfect shape
- Imperfect Foods Organic Pasture-Raised Eggs, Large 12 count ($5.35): Nearly as good as Vital Farms, and cheaper to boot
- Imperfect Foods Maple Walnut Cheesecake Bites ($4.99): A pleasantly tasty and creative surprise
- Amazi Jackfruit Chews Ginger Tumeric ($4.99): Another creative hit.
- Roli Roli Organic Chicken Butcher’s Bone Broth 24 fl oz ($5.49): We never heard of the brand, but this was a steal. The only drawback is it has to be refrigerated.
Imperfect’s cheeses are also good and on the cheap side. The sliced cheese is above average quality, and the aged cheeses tasted better than what we expected at that price point.
Our only major miss was the organic Granny Smith Apples ($2.49 per pound). These came advertised as scarred but arrived severely bruised.
The garlic was also a miss. It tasted fine, but the heads were laughably small. At least they were only $0.99 for two.
We’ve tried some of the meats, and overall, they’re about average.
Mary’s Organic 93% Lean Ground Turkey ($7.99 per pound) had a bit of a soggy texture and was bland when cooked. The poultry is adequate, but not nearly the quality you’d expect from a butcher.
How expensive is Imperfect Foods?
An online grocer can adhere to every ethical and customer-friendly practice in the book, but if the prices aren’t competitive, then it’ll have a hard time succeeding.
That being said, Imperfect Foods’ prices are…OK.
As we often do here at Value Sleuths, we surveyed dozens of Imperfect’s products and compared them against other grocery stores.
What we found were prices that were moderately higher (on average) than our local supermarkets, but competitive with more high-end stores. There were some steals to be found, but other items were downright expensive.
Let’s break it down
We filled up three Imperfect Foods shopping carts, and then compared them to what we’d pay for equivalent items at some of our favorite grocery stores.
- Vs. Whole Foods: Imperfect Foods was $148.35; Whole Foods was $164.99. Imperfect Foods was 11% cheaper.
- Vs. Walmart: Imperfect Foods was $67.38; Walmart was $52.97. Imperfect Foods was 21.4% more expensive.
- Vs. local supermarket: Imperfect Foods was $96.85; local supermarket was $87.99. Imperfect Foods was 9.1% more expensive.
Here’s a breakdown of Imperfect’s fruits and vegetable prices versus these competitors:
Imperfect Foods Cost Comparison
|Item||Imperfect Foods ($)||Whole Foods ($)||Walmart ($)||Local Supermarket ($)|
|Hass Avocado 2ct||$3.99||$2.99||$1.98||$2.78|
|Organic Mini Seedless Watermelon, 1ct||$5.99||$5.99||$3.98||$4.99|
|Organic Yellow Nectarines 1lb||$3.99||$4.99||$2.49||N/A|
|Seedless lemons 2ct||$0.99||$1.79||$1.26||$1.50|
|Organic Gala Apples 3lb||$7.99||$8.97||$5.47||$7.47|
|Green beans 8oz||$3.99||$2.99||$2.78||$0.99|
|Organic baby bella mushrooms 8oz||$3.99||$3.99||N/A||$2.00|
|Red bell peppers 2ct||$2.99||$5.24||$2.96||$2.24|
|Organic Zucchini 1ct||$1.49||$1.48||$1.48||N/A|
|Roma tomatoes 1lb||$1.99||$1.99||$1.28||$1.99|
|Organic Green Cabbage 1 head 2.5lb||$4.99||$3.73||$3.12||N/A|
|Organic Celery 1ct||$1.49||$2.99||$1.96||N/A|
We see in our table that Imperfect Foods only had the best price for two items, the organic celery, and the seedless lemons. However, it did beat out Whole Foods about half the time, and that’s saying something for a delivery service.
Is Imperfect Foods worth it?
Imperfect Foods is clearly making strides toward becoming a legitimate food delivery option. The question is, “Is it there yet?”
Sort of, but not entirely.
The fact of the matter is that for most items, Imperfect Foods is more expensive than local supermarkets and megastores like Walmart. The fruit is significantly more expensive, and the vegetables and meat are moderately pricier, with only the dairy and pantry items offering comparable value.
However, customers gain the convenience of having food delivered directly to their homes. With the price of gas as high as it is, and time being a valuable commodity, paying 5-10% extra for deliveries may be worth it.
Paying 15-20%+ more, like you will if you’re currently a Walmart shopper — not so much.
From the detective’s desk: If Imperfect Foods offers you a promo code of at least 20% off your next order, then it’s totally worth it. 20% off is enough to lower the prices to about Walmart level, and you’ll receive higher quality goods.
Quality and selection
We’d argue that outside the occasional mishap, Imperfect delivers higher quality food than discount grocers and roughly the same quality as local supermarkets. Imperfect also offers more organic, pasture-raised, and vegan/vegetarian options than the average supermarket.
On the other side of the coin, Imperfect Foods tends to be a bit cheaper than Whole Foods, but it carries fewer organic items and a smaller selection overall. If you’re already a Whole Foods shopper, then it may be worth considering getting what you can at Imperfect Foods.
One of Imperfect Foods’ growing bright spots is its self-branded items. Many of these are tasty, reasonably priced, and simply cannot be found at other grocery stores. The cheeses and snacks in particular are worth checking out.
The bottom line
In order for Imperfect Foods to be worth it, you’ll probably need to fit the characteristics of a certain type of shopper:
- You simply don’t have the time or means to shop in person for quality produce.
- You already shop at a premium grocer and are looking for ways to trim your grocery bill without sacrificing too much quality.
- You love to try new things, and are willing to accept that some may be hits and others may be misses.
- The quality at your local grocery store has gone downhill, and you want to try something new, even if it’s a bit more expensive.
- You’re a bargain hunter and shop at different stores depending on which one is currently offering the best discount.
- You care about the problems of food waste and CO2 emissions enough to change your personal shopping habits.
For the rest of us, and I reckon that’s the majority of people — Imperfect Foods won’t be the best fit. However, the company is evolving in such a way, that it’s going to be worth checking in every few months to see what improvements they make.
It may not be long before Imperfect gains our wholehearted recommendation.
Tips for getting the most out of Imperfect Foods
- Be patient: After signing up, wait a week or two. You may receive a better promo code. Likewise, don’t feel obligated to place an order every week. Imperfect Foods may incentivize you with a coupon.
- Skip orders: Imperfect Foods allows you to skip your next 1-6 orders without canceling your subscription. If you don’t like the current week’s selection, or simply don’t need groceries, skip your order.
- Spend enough for free shipping: $5.99 is too much to pay for shipping. Wait until you actually need $60+ worth of groceries before placing an order.
- Address problems: If there’s a problem with your order, you should immediately call or open a chat with customer care. The phone line is open Mon. – Fri. 6:30 am – 9:00 pm PST, and the Live Chat is available 7 days a week from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm PST.
- Price shop: With any online grocer, you’ll want to compare prices. This is particularly true with Imperfect Foods, as some items are relatively cheap while others are far more expensive than what you might pay elsewhere. Only select items that you believe provide value.
- Check back frequently: If you haven’t used Imperfect Foods in a while, it may still be worth checking in once in a while to see what’s changed. The site is constantly undergoing improvements.
- Sign up: Even if you don’t think you’ll order from Imperfect Foods, you should still sign up, as that’s the only way to view this week’s selection. It never hurts to look.
Imperfect Foods FAQ
What is Imperfect Foods’ phone number?
You can contact customer care at 510-595-6683. The line is open Mon. through Fri. from 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm PST.
For more common queries, visit the site’s help center.
What payment methods does Imperfect Foods accept?
The grocer only accepts U.S. major credit/debit cards, and prepaid Visa cards at this time.
Does Imperfect Foods have a referral program?
Yes. If you use your referral link to refer a friend to Imperfect Foods, your friend will receive 20% off (up to $20) on their first order.
In addition, you’ll receive a $5 credit on your Imperfect Foods account once your friend receives their first delivery.
Does Imperfect Foods sell gift cards?
No. Not at this time.