New Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Upcycling is a new term for an old concept of using food processing by-products to generate new food ingredients. Years ago, we made sausages from meat scraps and jams from overripe fruit. Today, consumers want to reduce food waste even more. Upcycling is one solution to reducing food waste by taking overlooked byproducts (leftover foodstuff) from processing and creating new ingredients.
- The Upcycled Food Association defines upcycled foods as those that 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.
Three reasons to upcycle
- Upcycling reduces food waste by converting neglected edible by-products into sustainable food and beverage ingredients.
- When food is wasted, all the natural resources that had been used to produce the food are also wasted. When you upcycle, you don’t need to grow more crops, occupy more land, or consume more water.
- Upcycling supports a circular economy. A circular economy is aimed at eliminating waste through a continuous use of resources.
What is the Upcycled Certified™ program?
The Upcycled Certified™ program is the world’s only certification for upcycled products. Originating in the United States, the program expanded into Canada in April 2022. Certification means that a product meets their standards for upcycling, which include things like proof the product would have otherwise gone to a food loss or waste destination.
Upcycled ingredients and products in the marketplace
Innovative food companies are identifying processed byproducts and converting them into novel, often nutritious, upcycled ingredients. Let’s explore three upcycled ingredients – traditionally considered waste by processors – that are now being used to create something new, nutritious and delicious.
When soy beverage is produced, the insoluble portion of soy (called okara) is filtered out. Soy beverage is further processed to make tofu. Okara is considered a waste product, but in fact, it retains its nutritional value. Vision Food Innovations Inc., based in Georgetown, Ontario, purchases okara from Sun Rise Soy manufacturing in Toronto for their Nature’s Flair baking line.
Vineet Jain, president (CEO) of Vision Food Innovation Inc., explains, “Once the okara is received, it is stored in the freezer to ensure a stable shelf life. As needed for our muffin recipes, the okara is thawed. Then it is blended with the recipe’s dry ingredients to avoid any lumping before processing.” Okara flour is gluten-free, nutritious (high in fibre with significant protein and calcium) and has a neutral flavour and colour. Therefore, it blends well with many baking recipes.
Spent grains are the rescued grains after breweries have extracted the sugars needed to make beer. They are a nutritious leftover from the beer brewing process that have long been used as an excellent form of animal feed. Recently, companies like GroundUp eco-ventures in Okotoks, Alberta are upcycling spent grains into flour. They use 100 per cent Canadian barley spent grain from their brewery partners.
Shawn Leggett, president (CEO) of GroundUp Eco-ventures, describes, “Once at GroundUp eco-ventures, the spent grain goes through a dehydration process to stabilize it, then it is milled into flour. Our 100% Brewer’s Barley Saved-Grain Flour has 3.4 times more fibre than wheat flour and contains 20 grams of protein per 100 grams. It is used in the Better Breakfast Pancakes and Born Again Brownies.”
Manitoba Starch Product Inc. (MSP) created Solnul™, an upcycled ingredient from the Canadian potato manufacturing industry. Using MSP’s proprietary process, resistant starch is reclaimed from the water used to cut the potatoes during processing. It is then dried and repurposed into Solnul™, an Upcycled Certified™ ingredient, simultaneously recycling water that is cleaned during the process. This diverts material that historically would have either gone into water treatment facilities or landfills.
Jason Leibert, chief growth officer of Solnul™, explains, “The entire lifecycle from humble potato into Solnul™ prebiotic resistant starch exemplifies what it means to use something to its highest potential. A sustainable food crop to hearty staple food and an upcycled ingredient, Solnul™ that feeds the gut microbiome. Solnul™ is sold to science-forward brands to elevate their supplements such as fibre blends and functional food products including prebiotic bars and bites.”
Upcycled ingredients offer food processors an innovative opportunity to create new ingredients and products for market, while reducing food waste and supporting a circular economy.