Upcycled food revolution: Transforming surpluses of whey, barley, fruit & vegetables into value-added products
12 Jul 2021 --- Upcycling is now “the new recycling,” presenting an attractive opportunity for businesses to curb food waste and loss, while scaling a host of new value-added F&B products from these sidestreams. Emergent concepts within this space now include alcoholic spirits from upcycled whey, chewy snacks from fruit surplus, and prebiotic sugars from fiber-rich agricultural waste.
FoodIngredientsFirst spotlights key players leading the charge on the climate-driven necessity to rethink our food system with “rescued” ingredient innovations.
“At the consumer level, upcycling is a new concept to many,” says Emily Darchuk, CEO and founder of upcycled alcoholic beverage company Wheyward Spirit. “The biggest learning curve is that waste isn’t waste. Taking a holistic look at our food system, we can create businesses that bridge gaps in our supply chain.”
“More consumers are looking for ways to reduce food waste, and from a governmental level, this is becoming a priority for society as a whole,” she notes. “Anyone upcycling is handcrafting their products with a very thoughtful approach, and you should be getting better quality in the products you purchase.”
Spirits from upcycled whey
Wheyward Spirit is one example of how the upcycling ethos is permeating the spirits industry. Each bottle of the sustainably-sourced whey spirit diverts food waste, adds value to local food chains and generates a lower carbon and water footprint than traditional grain-based spirits do.
“Our spirit is produced using whey, the liquid byproduct of cheese production,” says Darchuk. “For every ten pounds of milk, a cheese maker can produce one pound of cheese, which leaves nine pounds of creamy and nutrient-rich whey left behind.”
The concept leverages one of the beverage sector’s most underutilized byproducts as less than half of the 100 billion pounds of whey generated annually is fully used.
“Wheyward Spirit is an 80-proof clear specialty spirit that is one of a kind,” Darchuk details. “It has a signature flavor of oaky hints of vanilla cream, and warm spice notes, rounded with a subtle pear aroma, followed by a velvety smooth finish.”
“The drink’s flavor is created naturally during fermentation of the whey and careful distillation that lets its flavor blossom, creating a versatile base for cocktails and a spirit smooth enough to savor on its own.”
Wheyward Spirit has won independent blind taste tests and was named a 2021 Good Food Award Winner.
Prebiotic sugars from fiber-rich agricultural waste
The Supplant Company is introducing a new food category – sugars from fiber. Supplant sugars are made using a patented method that upcycles the fiber-rich structural plant parts from agricultural side streams, such as straw and stalks, as well as cobs of corn, wheat and rice.
Supplant offers the same texture, caramelizing and taste performance as cane sugar in baked goods and other treats. However, because the ingredient is made from fiber, it retains certain beneficial fiber-based qualities: it is lower in calories, has a lower glycemic response, and is a prebiotic.
Currently working with commercial partners ranging from restaurants and chefs to consumer brands, The Supplant Company is now launching and expanding in the US market, with Supplant sugars from fiber approved through the self-affirmed Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) process.
The Supplant Company was founded by Dr. Tom Simmons, who holds a PhD in plant science. “We’re committed to building a food system that is good for people and for the planet,” he remarks.
Upcycled barley milk
Last May, the Upcycled Food Association (UFA) rolled out the “world’s first mark certifying upcycled food.” Take Two’s upcycled barley milk is one of the first products to receive this distinction.
Take Two Barleymilk is marketed as industry’s first plant-milk to utilize spent grain, of which over eight billion pounds is wasted annually from beer brewing processes.
“As one of the first companies selected to receive the Upcycled Food Certification, we are working to champion the path to a sustainable food system and future,” says co-founder and CEO Jerek Theo Lovey. “We are grateful for the UFA’s leadership in directly addressing the challenge of food waste and trailblazing a better way.”
Co-founder and COO, Matt Olsofsky, highlights: “Barleymilk offers golden nutrients such as complete protein, good fats and essential vitamins and minerals.”
Take Two Barelymilk upcycles approximately one pound of spent grain per bottle. This means that every bottle of Take Two Barleymilk saves approximately 99 gallons of water – the equivalent of water used in six showers – and diverts greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to burning two pounds of coal.
When compared to dairy milk and other leading brand plant-based dairy alternatives, Take Two claims it outperforms competitors in all sustainability-related categories, including greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, energy usage and land usage.
Turning wasted fruit into chewy snacks
Upcycled dried fruit snacks company RIND recently closed a US$6.1 million Series A capital raise led by Valor Siren Ventures (VSV), an early-stage investor in sustainable food and food-tech, along with a follow-on investment from Melitas Ventures.
Upcycled dried fruit snacks company RIND recently closed a US$6.1 million Series A capital raise. (Credit: RIND)
RIND launched in the dehydrated snack category in 2018 with its chewy “skin-on superfruit” product made from fruit surplus that would have otherwise been wasted. The company highlights that its “once sleepy category” is forecasted to grow at an 8.4 percent CAGR through 2025.
"We view the fruit snack space as ripe for disruption,” says Matt Weiss, founder and CEO of RIND. “VSV shares our vision for awakening this category with a keen focus on function and sustainability, helping consumers both snack better and do better through the ‘power of the peel.’”
“This capital will help us build an amazing team and accelerate our growth substantially, which will in turn enable us to continue our efforts to combat unnecessary food waste and childhood hunger.”
Having diverted more than 120,000 pounds of edible peels from landfills in 2020, RIND is aiming to significantly increase its impact in 2021.
Turning excess tempeh into minced meat
Tempeh Minced Meat is the newest product of the Dutch family business Schouten Europe. The vegetable minced meat is partly made from the upcycled leftover materials of Schouten’s tempeh products.
With the product, Schouten notes it is responding in a sustainable way to the increasing demand for fermented products. The tempeh minced meat targets retail, the out-of-home channel and the food processing industry.
“Because we want to prevent food waste as much as possible and the residual product is completely safe and usable, we put it on the market as Tempeh Minced Meat after a minor processing,” says R&D director Niek-Jan Schouten.
Minced meat notably among the most important product groups within the plant-based market.
Mycoprotein from upcycled food waste
Scandinavian mycoprotein pioneer Mycorena recently completed its pre-Series A funding round of SEK 77 million (US$9 million). As one of the largest investments in a Nordic vegan food-tech startup, this investment round pushes the company’s total external funding to more than SEK 100 million (US$11.6 million).
Headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden, Mycorena was founded in 2017 as a spin-out from the research made by the founder and CEO Ramkumar Nair. The company is now pegged as one of the global leading manufacturers of mycoprotein and one of the fast-growing food-tech start-ups in Sweden.
Mycorena’s flagship mycoprotein ingredient, Promyc, is developed by upcycling food waste in industrial processing. It is already being tested as a protein ingredient in several commercial vegan products sold in Scandinavia.
“The capital will primarily be used to prepare the company for rapid commercialization through aggressive expansion of its team, R&D and IP capabilities, and production scaleup,” comments Nair.
Mycorena will be constructing a new production site in Falkenberg, Sweden. The plant, aiming to be operational in mid-2022, will be Scandinavia’s first-of-its-kind facility for large-scale manufacturing of mycoprotein.
The investment round was led by the Belgium-based VEOS Group, a global supplier of proteins and functional ingredients. The majority of the company’s existing investors, including FBG Invest and Bånt AB, two of the largest shareholders of Mycorena, have also participated in the round together with several new investors.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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