Freaky fruit, damaged produce popular online

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Freaky fruit, damaged produce popular online

Increasingly frugal shoppers are buying more damaged agricultural products at large discounts from online shopping malls, creating a new consumer trend in the recession-hit retail industry.

Agricultural and fisheries products including, fruit, vegetables and dried fish that are considered defective because of their stunted growth or due to small scratches or tears are selling like hot cakes, in contrast to slowing sales at super markets and department stores.

Statistics Korea, earlier this month, announced that prices of fresh produce have risen nearly 20 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

According to an online open market, Auction, sales of deformed fruit and dried fish jumped 60 percent on-year in the second quarter.

G-Market, the online auction and shopping mall Web site, also saw sales of its low-grade foodstuff jump by between 10 percent and 138 percent depending on what item, it said.

The products in question are impaired in the process of cultivating and shipping, due mainly to annual monsoon rains.

Most are sold at half price.

“Before the recession, consumers wouldn’t even look at such products,” said a sales manager at Auction.

Offline shopping malls have also been preparing defective food products at cut prices.

Farmers are also benefiting from the new trend as they can deal with consumers directly via the online malls, leading them to put out a greater range of items at slightly better prices.

Auction is now selling scores of damaged fruit, vegetables and fisheries.

In recent months, its sales of torn dried squid, dried filefish fillet and kelp - also impaired products - have soared by 45 percent.

Sales of the same items at G-Market have jumped 66 percent over the same period.

Paprika, potato, onions and mushrooms that are either too small or not properly shaped are also available at these sites with discounts of up to 30 percent.

Following the trend, retailers have embarked on a new marketing strategy for items that show stunted growth by ramping up their cutesy appeal.

Deformed abalone is being promoted in some stores as “little abalone for noodles” near “baby mushrooms.”

Open markets are launching events to sell such products by gathering them in one place.

Auction held an exhibition using the slogan “ugly foods” for defective agricultural and fisheries products, slashing 50 percent off their normal retail prices.

“If we sell these products, consumers can get a better price without seeing any difference in taste or nutrition, while farmers and retailers can benefit from having a new distribution outlet,” said Ko Hyun-sil, head of Auction Living Room.

The retailers implied they will move to expand their sales of products sourcing of damaged or freak foods.

By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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