“Upcycling is the future”: Kern Tec adds apricot seed yogurt to alt-dairy portfolio
20 Feb 2023 --- Kern Tec presented its latest innovations at BioFach 2023, where the Austrian start-up showcased a product range developed from upcycling apricot kernels. FoodIngredientsFirst spoke to Michael Beitl, co-founder of Kern Tec.
“We are showing our newest non-dairy drinks and plant-based yogurts, which are all made from our apricot seeds,” says Beitl.
“Our biggest innovation is our new Wunderkern apricot-nut yogurts. These are based on our apricot seed, plant-based upcycling system. They come after two years of development.”
“We have this in a natural form, blueberry flavor, and as a food preparation. We’re also showcasing barista versions of our upcycled Wunderkern milk.”
Kern Tec processes waste apricot kernels, upcycling them to produce various dairy alternative products, including cheeses and ice creams.
“We are producing new raw material from stone fruit kernels. Apricots, plums and cherries. What a lot of people don’t realize is that within this kernel is a precious nut if you process the kernel correctly.”
Beitl explains that processing waste nuts unlocks untapped nutrients with the potential for product development.
“With this nut, you can even make chocolate spreads. It’s full of healthy fats and proteins.”
Upcycling apricot waste
Focusing on reducing CO2 levels during production is vital for Beitl and one of the primary motivations for choosing apricot kernels to upcycle.
“With our apricot upcycling process, when you compare it to other conventional resources like oat or coconut, it has the lowest CO2 emissions per kilogram of raw material,” he notes.
“This is important for the consumer, who increasingly wants sustainability as part of their purchasing.”
For Beitl, the apricot seed was the “obvious choice” as it is both nutritious and readily available as a waste product.
“We got to this process by analyzing raw material, such as waste kernels, and realizing it had the same nutrients as other nuts. So, we thought, why not use this nut? In Europe alone, we have over 500,000 metric tons of this as a side product, which we constantly produce, generating more CO2.”
For Kern Tec, educating the consumer about the nature of the product remains one of its key challenges.
“The customer always thinks it’s a waste product and, as such, should be cheaper. However, a waste product is a raw material which still needs to be treated and processed, which adds to costs.”
Beitl believes upcycled products will match the competition in taste and beat it in sustainability appeal.
“However, we feel it’s essential that our upcycled products have the same costs as other products. That way, the consumer can choose between products that offer taste and texture, but if one is upcycled and has fewer CO2 emissions, the consumer will choose that one.”
Beitl hopes the numbers behind Kern Tec’s products will win over consumers.
“We educate consumers via numbers. Consumers love the story of upcycling as it makes sense for everyone, but how you catch people is with the numbers. We educate them on the packaging. Our milk products show graphs comparing our CO2 emissions with other milk, such as soy.”
Plant-based plans ahead
Following BioFach 2023, Kern Tec plans on expanding its range across Europe.
“For 2023, we will launch the rest of our products across Europe. We’ve started in Austria and Germany with good numbers and strong partners. Next year we will start with the UK and France.”
Beitl notes the strong presence of plant-based products at BioFach but notes that this is no longer merely a trend.
“We’ve noticed that plant-based and meat-alternative food is trending here at BioFach. It’s not just in the dairy sector. It’s in meat and other meat substitutes,” he says.
“Upcycling is not a trend anymore. It’s the future,” concludes Bietl.
At Food Ingredients Europe last year, Kern Tec won Most Innovative Food or Beverage Ingredient with its proprietary processes to convert discarded fruit pits into valuable ingredients.
By James Davies
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