📈 STOPPING FOOD WASTE AND SAVING THE WORLD
- What is Upcycling?
- Why Now?
- Who to Watch
- The Road Ahead
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♻️ WHAT IS UPCYCLING?
Upcycling by definition is creative reuse of by-products, waste materials, useless or other unwanted products. Yet while most people think of repurposing old bikes, rusty buckets or dated furniture when they think of upcycling, there’s a growing segment of the food and beverage industry that is upcycling by-products from all different kinds of food production and turning them into snacks, flour, tortillas, energy bars and more.
An official definition of upcycled foods that released in June of this year by the Upcycled Food Association determines upcycled foods to be:
“Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.”
A task force on upcycled foods, made up of industry, government, nonprofit and academia professionals, further defined what upcycled foods do and their impact within the food industry.
- Upcycled foods are made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up in a food waste destination.
- Upcycled foods are value-added products.
- Upcycled foods are for human consumption.
- Upcycled foods have an auditable supply chain.
- Upcycled foods indicate which ingredients are upcycled on their labels.
🧐 WHY NOW?
The global climate crisis is getting harder to ignore.
- According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a third of food produced globally and 40 percent of food in the U.S. is never eaten. That includes food left behind on people’s plates, but also food that goes spoils while in transit or expires while sitting on the shelves, as well as odds and ends that get discarded during cooking prep.
- Meanwhile, 1 in 9 people around the world suffer from food insecurity and hunger.
- And even more discouraging is that food waste accounts for 8 % of global total greenhouse gas emissions.
Upcycled foods can reduce food loss and waste but also provide new food sources, especially for those in need, while at the same time fighting climate change.
🌊 MAKING WAVES
Upcycled foods are now starting to make waves in the food and beverage ecosystem.
- Whole Foods designated upcycled foods as one of their Top 10 Food Trends for 2021.
- The Upcycled Food Association, formed in 2019 just welcomed the Dole company as their 100th member, demonstrating that big food is paying close attention to this emerging category of products.
- According to the UFA, 400 upcycled products already exist and a product certification process will be revealed later this year.
- Demand is there. More than 50% of consumers would buy upcycled foods, according to Mattson, a food and beverage product development consulting group.
👀 WHO TO WATCH
- Renewal Mill: Renewal Mill takes the byproducts of soy milk production—the pulp from the soybeans—and mills them into okara flour, a 1-to-1 baking flour.
- Imperfect Foods: Food that’s not deemed pretty enough for grocery shelves gets a second chance in this produce delivery service.
- Tia Lupita: Well-known for its hot sauce, Tia Lupita is now selling grain-free tortillas that incorporate upcycled organic okara.
- Seconds: The pulp that’s left over from carrot juice finds a new life as a carrot cracker.
- Barnana: Bananas, the ones not picked because of an odd shape or look, get picked up and turned into tasty dried snacks.
- Spudsy: Ugly-looking sweet potatoes get transformed into yummy sweet potato puffs.
- ReGrained: The grain that is used to brew beer is actually quite nutritious so ReGrained “rescues” it and turns into a nutrition bar, puffs, and other premium ingredients.
- Barvocado: All that millennial obsession with avocado toast won’t go to waste thanks to Barvocado. They take the pit of the avocado and upcycle it into an ingredient for their energy bar.
🛣 THE ROAD AHEAD
Yes, this is an emerging food category but it has tons of potential for both small makers and large. Indeed, the Consumer Goods Forum recently announced they have formed a dedicated coalition to tackle the problem of food waste. Who’s on the coalition? Major companies like Barilla, General Mills, Kellogg Company, McCain Foods, Nestlé, Sainsbury, Tesco, and Walmart.
That said, upcycled foods is still a bit of a “Wild West” landscape to navigate, especially without a formal product certification process. Companies seeking to promote their upcycled ingredients should adhere to the standards put forth by the Upcycled Foods Association.
But with a value estimated to be more than 46 billion with a predicted 5% compound annual growth rate, according to a Future Markets Insights report, this is going to be one exciting segment to watch.