Pei Shan and Augustine's Story

What got us started?

Peishan: When my Grandma fell ill, I discovered a hidden truth. That for years, I’ve been wasting perfectly edible food. For it was only then that I started researching about healthy diets for my Grandma, and discovered how ugly foods are often being thrown away. That’s a huge waste of the natural resources it took to produce them in the first place. They are perfectly edible and as nutritious as other more aesthetically pleasing food.

Augustine: Upon further research into this cosmetic filtering, we realised that this massive waste of food could be turned into a business opportunity. That we could do our part in reducing food waste here – which has increased by about 40% in the last 10 years, and continues to be so.

What was our first project?

UglyFood was born through a university project while we were studying at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). We were working on a project for Design Odyssey, a programme established by SUTD-MIT International Design Centre, in partnership with the JP Morgan Foundation. Design Odyssey aims to provide students a seamless transition to professional practice by focusing on social awareness, innovation and design.

During that project, we started building UglyFood’s business concept by doing primary research and talking to stakeholders, such as staff from supermarket chains, local farmers and wet market stall owners. We then realised that a lot of ugly food became ugly through logistical processes such as distribution and transportation.

Ugly Food 2

What got us going?

Through working with established mentors in the F&B industry, we developed a range of healthy recipes to transform “ugly” food into beautiful yet delectable products. First, we started with juices.

Now we’ve expanded to ice cream and fruit tea as well, and we don’t plan to stop until everyone
starts seeing the beauty in “ugly” food.

We’ve received strong support from many local eco-conscious folks, but in reality, there is still a large part of the population who are not aware of the issue of “ugly” food being thrown out, even though they are just as nutritious as “beautiful” ones. We want to change the perspective of how beauty is only skin-deep – there is more to it than what meets the eye!

We are where we are today owing to the various mentors who have guided us through the different phases of our UglyFood journey.

Ugly Food 3

What’s next?

Working on UglyFood, we’ve learnt that problems should be seen as opportunities, and our goal and vision for the company is to explore food wastage beyond just the F&B space, like pushing the boundaries further than just cosmetic filtering, and looking at how to cut down excess food too.

We want to use UglyFood as a platform to educate consumers, and shift Singaporeans’ mindsets from “I” to “We” and be more conscious of the larger community. Currently, most of us are not aware that it is not energy efficient for Singapore to incinerate unwanted food. This also contributes to the energy and resources used to grow produce, which in turn gives rise to global warming.

Understanding the importance of reducing waste can help to shape the world we live in. And we’ve found a way to do what’s good for us and the environment.

You can too.