“A carrot that looks like a foot is just as delicious as a normal carrot, and it doesn’t belong in our trash cans.”
Once the fresh-faced darling of the beverage industry, cold-pressed juice has arguably lost a bit of novelty. Gone are the days of the elusive It green juice, available only at boutique juice bars (and sipped as part of an alkalizing cleanse); today’s juice drinker has seemingly limitless options, several of which are available at her local Target store—and possibly backed by her favorite soda company, too. This isn’t a knock on cold-pressed juice inasmuch as it is to politely point out that the market is pretty saturated.
Perhaps pre-empting such skepticism, Misfit Juicery—ostensibly just another cold-pressed juice enterprise—bluntly states on its website, “This is not a juice company.” Upon further inspection, this statement isn’t token rebelliousness or provocative marketing. Misfit wasn’t launched to be yet another juice brand; it was created to be a viable solution to a vexing national problem: food waste.
As such, Misfit formulates their cold-pressed juices using 70 to 80 percent “misfit” produce: “Ugly” fruits and vegetables (items deemed the wrong shape, color, or size to sell at retail), along with scrap waste recovered from food processors who create precut packaged goods like carrot sticks. “Yes, we are interested in creating a delicious product,” cofounder Ann Yang explains, “But more importantly, our mission is to fix the waste happening in the agricultural sector.”
It’s a lofty mission. In the United States alone, over 20 billion pounds of fresh, viably edible produce goes to waste each year, largely because it is considered too unattractive to be sold to consumers. Moreover, thousands of pounds of scrap material end up occupying our precious landfills. The fallout is dire: According to ReFed, food waste represents a $218 billion loss annually in the United States, occupying 21 percent of our total landfill volume while using more than 20 percent of our country’s fresh water supply. In short, it’s a crisis with resounding economic, environmental, and humanitarian consequences.
Yang and her cofounder, Philip Wong, first learned of this problem while undergraduates at Georgetown University. Frustrated by the waste they witnessed in their day-to-day existence, they decided to use “ugly” produce to create a consumer product.
On selecting juice, Wong explains, “It made sense in a lot of ways—you don’t have the same visual biases with a bottle of juice as you do when you look at a whole fruit or vegetable.” He continues, “It’s also a much purer space than a lot of other categories, one where you can really stay true to the ingredients that you’re using.” Direction thus decided, Yang and Wong began collecting castoff produce—which they’d soon coin as “misfits”—and experimenting (sometimes disastrously) with a juicer in Wong’s dorm room. After pitch competitions and winning a bit of cash, a company was born.
Misfit is based in Washington, D.C., obtaining ingredients from sources as diverse as local farmers to national food distributors. While their formulas originally relied solely on “ugly” produce, sourcing production scrap has proven a hugely impactful addition to their products. Yang notes, “It’s been pretty cool to attack this problem from multiple levels on the supply chain and then try to come up with a solution.”
Beyond its ingredients, Misfit truly lives up to its name: In many senses, the company is the rebellious, scrappy contrarian to the glossy, glamorous juice brands of yore. For instance, unlike some of its competitors, Misfit is strictly anti-juice cleansing. Yang explains, “Initially, a lot of people thought that we were a cleanse brand—we did not realize how dominant that culture was around cold-pressed juice.” She continues, “We feel like juice cleansing is the least nutritionally sound proposal—drinking nothing but juice for five days to lose some water weight—and it’s not what our company is about at all. We want to be body positive, supporting diverse and healthy bodies.” Along those lines, in recruiting its labor force, Misfit hires individuals that face structural barriers to employment, such as homelessness. This all ties in to its overarching philosophy that everyone and everything has innate worth: from a human being to a bruised apple.
Which brings us to the real question: Are the juices actually any good? Happily, they are—the earthy, slightly tangy Offbeet is a must-try—thus shattering any notion that misfit fruits and vegetables aren’t just as delicious as their polished counterparts. Wong summarizes, “We’ve learned that there’s a real difference between looks and value. A carrot that looks like a foot is just as delicious as a normal carrot, and it doesn’t belong in our trash cans.”
We’ll drink to that.