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Aug 10, 2021

How many companies do you know of that operated at a $500 million run rate within five years of their launch? We’re guessing it’s a handful, at most. Now, factor into that group companies whose business models are centered around food waste, and you’ll likely end up with a list of one: Imperfect Foods.

Launched in 2015, the San Francisco-based company sells misshapen or mildly flawed produce along with overstocked packaged food and beverages to consumers via a subscription-based online delivery service. Imperfect claims that its prices are 30% less than conventional grocers and that in 2020, it rescued over 52 million pounds of food. Last year marked the fourth consecutive year of triple-digit growth, according to the company, which counts a subscriber base of over 350,000 customers.

Investors have taken notice of its rapid rise. Earlier this year, the company announced a $115 million Series D funding round, just nine months after picking up $72 million in new capital, the total of which is intended to bolster its production capacity, accelerate its private label program and enhance customer experience.

This episode features an interview with Imperfect Foods co-founder Benjamin Chesler, who created the business alongside former CEO Ben Simon while they were still in college. Our conversation explores the company’s roots and mission to reduce food waste on a massive scale, their initial business plan and pitch to early investors and how the company attempts to equally manage social focus and profitability. Chesler also discussed Imperfect’s pricing and UX strategies and the process for incorporating branded items into its product selection.

Show notes:

0:42: Interview: Benjamin Chesler, Co-Founder, Imperfect Foods -- Taste Radio editor Ray Latif sat down with Chesler and discussed their shared history in Greater Boston, the entrepreneur’s activism in high school, which continued into college as the co-founder of Food Recovery Network, a student led program that reduces food waste on university campuses. He also spoke about how, as Imperfect Foods’ first COO, he established systems that would provide a lasting foundation for the company, the motivation for its customers to subscribe to its service and why it expanded beyond produce and into other grocery items in 2019. Later, Chesler explained how Imperfect communicates quality as a seller of food that would typically be discarded, his style of leadership and his personal involvement in other sustainability initiatives beyond Imperfect Foods.

Brands in this episode: Barnana, Nona Lim, Brew Dr. Kombucha