‘Upcycled’ food and drink: the brands going circular and transforming trash into treasure

‘Upcycled’ food and drink: the brands going circular and transforming trash into treasure

By
Louise Burfitt
June 29, 2021

♻️ What is it?

  • A misshapen melon. A wonky tomato. The spent grains leftover from brewing beer. ‘Ugly’ fruit and veg that supermarkets would rather chuck out than sell to customers. Sounds like a bunch of missed opportunities, doesn’t it?
  • Makes sense, then, that a whole host of startups and sustainably-minded food entrepreneurs are capitalising on just that: whether it’s snacks produced using leftover juicing pulp or plant milk made from surplus barley, one person’s trash really can be another’s treasure when it comes to food and drink…

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Forbes calls it the ‘coolest trend you’ve probably never heard of’, others call it a ‘no brainer’ - upcycled food, as it’s known, is defined by the Upcycled Food Association as ‘food made with ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, sourced and produced using verifiable supply chains, and with a positive impact on the environment’.

🤷 Why?

  • For many years, world hunger was in decline, but sadly and shockingly, it’s now on the up again. And yet, simultaneously, 1 in 10 people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. It makes total sense, then, to try and use all the edibles out there in the world to feed as many people as possible. 
  • And, in theory, making new products with surplus food should be easy - given that 1.3 bn tonnes per year goes to waste around the world. Companies driven by sustainability and ethical concerns are looking at food waste with new eyes and recognising the potential for environmental gains it represents.
  • Using the byproducts of other food manufacturing processes also makes excellent business sense. There are commercial advantages to using the byproducts of your processes, or buying unused ingredients from others at a low cost. And it’s clear that’s something many businesses have realised: the Upcycled Food Association’s member directory already lists over 150 brands making their money from surplus food products.
  • Consumers are on board too, making the move to low-waste or upcycled products a no-brainer. 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on products that are billed as ethical and sustainable, and upcycled food and drink certainly fits this profile. 

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • Fruit and veg that would have otherwise gone to waste represents another big opportunity. Whether it’s delivering veg boxes full of mishappen, wonky produce (see Oddbox in the UK) or turning ‘ugly’ vegetables into veggie chips (check out Confetti Snacks based in Singapore), there are many opportunities for foodie entrepreneurs. Other companies turning fruit and veg trash into treasure include Fooditive in the Netherlands, who are turning fruit waste into plant-based sweeteners, Kromkommer into soups, and Rscued into fruit juices, smoothies and ice creams. 
  • Rather than pursuing the direct-to-consumer, product-based model, others are building connected platforms and apps to help reduce food waste. UK-based Olio, which invites members to advertise free food and drink that would otherwise have gone to waste, has over 2 million users while US marketplace Full Harvest 
  • Using the waste products of the beer-brewing process is also becoming big business. ReGrained, Hewn Bread and Grain4Grain are all making new food products (like flour, and bread) from brewers’ used grains. A new EU initiative to explore upcycling solutions for brewing waste has found ways to turn spent barley into crackers, fish food and non-alcoholic drinks. 
  • Packaged, better-for-you snacks and functional beverages are another way the upcycled trend is manifesting - that wonky, misshapen avocado really doesn’t matter once it’s been processed into an energy bar. And, of course, the same goes for veggie chips, crackers, juices and smoothies. Barnana, for example, make banana-based snacks using imperfect fruit while Dash Water turn crooked fruit and veg into flavoured waters.
  • And soon - in a sign of the growing awareness and popularity of upcycled foods - the Upcycled Food Association will introduce a new certification mark to provide shoppers with clear guidance about the presence of upcycled ingredients in food and beverages, pet food, dietary supplements and more.
View our foodwaste & upcycling database here

👀 Who? (50+ companies in this space)

📈 The figures

  • Research by Future Market suggests the upcycled food market is already worth $46.7 billion and will grow at an expected CAGR of 5% over the next 10 years.

🥝 Case study: RIND Snacks

  • US-based RIND Snacks wants its customers to ‘keep it real, eat the peel’: the New York City startup makes skin-on dried fruit snacks from fruit that would otherwise have ended up rotting in landfill.
  • The snacks utilise the fruit peel - another edible that is usually automatically discarded - with RIND estimating that they’ve stopped almost 54 tonnes of fruit peel going in the bin in 2020 alone.
  • Using the peel also appeals (see what we did there!) to health-conscious consumers: the rind is packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamins, and so RIND’s creations - including coconut crisps and tangy kiwi dried fruit snacks - are too. 
  • AVailable at over 3,000 stores across the continental US, RIND’s snacks are also available through select delivery services - thanks to fruitful partnerships with low-waste food delivery schemes including Imperfect Foods.
  • This June, the company announced that it had raised $6.1 million in a Series A funding round. The investment will allow the snack startup to ramp up production and develop a new roasted vegetable chips line.

🍺 Case study: Breer

  • Hong Kong startup Breer is tackling the enormous amount of waste produced by the bakery segment with its selection of upcycled craft beers. 
  • Founded by four Hong Kong University students, the startup came into life to both reduce food waste and to manufacture beer in a more cost-effective way. 
  • Breer partners with bakeries and supermarkets to collect some of the thousands of tonnes of bread discarded every day in the Asian city. 
  • The leftover loaves are delivered to local breweries, commissioned by Breer, who extract the grains and use these to replace up to one-third of malted barley and yeast normally used to make beer. 
  • Currently, Breer has two craft beers on offer: a pale ale and lager
  • The complete production cycle is available to track on the Breer App, which also connects so-called ‘Breer runners’ (local students who collect the leftover loaves) with local bakeries. 
  • As well as boosting their sustainability credentials, Breer’s commitment to using bread that would otherwise have been thrown away has cut the costs of making beer and the amount of space needed to do so.
  • A clear focus on their target market - young millennials passionate about sustainability and craft brewing - has also contributed to their success (their first soft launch sold out quickly). A wider launch, and partnerships with Pizza Hut and KFC, are in the pipeline for 2021.

👍 The good

  • Using up imperfect or leftover produce that would have otherwise gone straight in the bin is a pretty effective way to help the planet – less food goes to landfill, fewer virgin resources are used in the first place, and fewer people go hungry. 
  • Using wasted edibles also makes good business sense for food brands. As the example of beer-making startup Breer shows, utilising leftovers is often more cost-effective and can be a way for young companies to keep their costs down. 
  • Upcycled food can also have incredible health benefits - often the parts of a food that are thrown away (think fruit peel or cacao waste) are highly nutritious and rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

👎 The bad

  • Some consumers may turn up their noses at eating ‘waste’ food, associating it with bad hygiene or poverty, but careful marketing and clear communication of the benefits is likely to help win over more hesitant customers. 
  • More consumer education is also needed: say ‘upcycled food’ to the average shopper on the street and you’re more likely to be met with a blank stare than not. A 2021 study by Food & Nutrition Sciences found that only 10% of consumers were aware of upcycled products. 
  • Lastly, while food waste can have many positive societal and environmental impacts, it’s probably not a complete solution to the problem of world hunger.

💡 The bottom line

  • Given that food waste is responsible for 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions linked to human activity, saving even some of it from landfill sounds like a great idea - and the sheer wealth of startups working in this area are proof of the promise of upcycled foods

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

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♻️ What is it?

  • A misshapen melon. A wonky tomato. The spent grains leftover from brewing beer. ‘Ugly’ fruit and veg that supermarkets would rather chuck out than sell to customers. Sounds like a bunch of missed opportunities, doesn’t it?
  • Makes sense, then, that a whole host of startups and sustainably-minded food entrepreneurs are capitalising on just that: whether it’s snacks produced using leftover juicing pulp or plant milk made from surplus barley, one person’s trash really can be another’s treasure when it comes to food and drink…

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Forbes calls it the ‘coolest trend you’ve probably never heard of’, others call it a ‘no brainer’ - upcycled food, as it’s known, is defined by the Upcycled Food Association as ‘food made with ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, sourced and produced using verifiable supply chains, and with a positive impact on the environment’.

🤷 Why?

  • For many years, world hunger was in decline, but sadly and shockingly, it’s now on the up again. And yet, simultaneously, 1 in 10 people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. It makes total sense, then, to try and use all the edibles out there in the world to feed as many people as possible. 
  • And, in theory, making new products with surplus food should be easy - given that 1.3 bn tonnes per year goes to waste around the world. Companies driven by sustainability and ethical concerns are looking at food waste with new eyes and recognising the potential for environmental gains it represents.
  • Using the byproducts of other food manufacturing processes also makes excellent business sense. There are commercial advantages to using the byproducts of your processes, or buying unused ingredients from others at a low cost. And it’s clear that’s something many businesses have realised: the Upcycled Food Association’s member directory already lists over 150 brands making their money from surplus food products.
  • Consumers are on board too, making the move to low-waste or upcycled products a no-brainer. 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on products that are billed as ethical and sustainable, and upcycled food and drink certainly fits this profile. 

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • Fruit and veg that would have otherwise gone to waste represents another big opportunity. Whether it’s delivering veg boxes full of mishappen, wonky produce (see Oddbox in the UK) or turning ‘ugly’ vegetables into veggie chips (check out Confetti Snacks based in Singapore), there are many opportunities for foodie entrepreneurs. Other companies turning fruit and veg trash into treasure include Fooditive in the Netherlands, who are turning fruit waste into plant-based sweeteners, Kromkommer into soups, and Rscued into fruit juices, smoothies and ice creams. 
  • Rather than pursuing the direct-to-consumer, product-based model, others are building connected platforms and apps to help reduce food waste. UK-based Olio, which invites members to advertise free food and drink that would otherwise have gone to waste, has over 2 million users while US marketplace Full Harvest 
  • Using the waste products of the beer-brewing process is also becoming big business. ReGrained, Hewn Bread and Grain4Grain are all making new food products (like flour, and bread) from brewers’ used grains. A new EU initiative to explore upcycling solutions for brewing waste has found ways to turn spent barley into crackers, fish food and non-alcoholic drinks. 
  • Packaged, better-for-you snacks and functional beverages are another way the upcycled trend is manifesting - that wonky, misshapen avocado really doesn’t matter once it’s been processed into an energy bar. And, of course, the same goes for veggie chips, crackers, juices and smoothies. Barnana, for example, make banana-based snacks using imperfect fruit while Dash Water turn crooked fruit and veg into flavoured waters.
  • And soon - in a sign of the growing awareness and popularity of upcycled foods - the Upcycled Food Association will introduce a new certification mark to provide shoppers with clear guidance about the presence of upcycled ingredients in food and beverages, pet food, dietary supplements and more.
View our foodwaste & upcycling database here

👀 Who? (50+ companies in this space)

📈 The figures

  • Research by Future Market suggests the upcycled food market is already worth $46.7 billion and will grow at an expected CAGR of 5% over the next 10 years.

🥝 Case study: RIND Snacks

  • US-based RIND Snacks wants its customers to ‘keep it real, eat the peel’: the New York City startup makes skin-on dried fruit snacks from fruit that would otherwise have ended up rotting in landfill.
  • The snacks utilise the fruit peel - another edible that is usually automatically discarded - with RIND estimating that they’ve stopped almost 54 tonnes of fruit peel going in the bin in 2020 alone.
  • Using the peel also appeals (see what we did there!) to health-conscious consumers: the rind is packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamins, and so RIND’s creations - including coconut crisps and tangy kiwi dried fruit snacks - are too. 
  • AVailable at over 3,000 stores across the continental US, RIND’s snacks are also available through select delivery services - thanks to fruitful partnerships with low-waste food delivery schemes including Imperfect Foods.
  • This June, the company announced that it had raised $6.1 million in a Series A funding round. The investment will allow the snack startup to ramp up production and develop a new roasted vegetable chips line.

🍺 Case study: Breer

  • Hong Kong startup Breer is tackling the enormous amount of waste produced by the bakery segment with its selection of upcycled craft beers. 
  • Founded by four Hong Kong University students, the startup came into life to both reduce food waste and to manufacture beer in a more cost-effective way. 
  • Breer partners with bakeries and supermarkets to collect some of the thousands of tonnes of bread discarded every day in the Asian city. 
  • The leftover loaves are delivered to local breweries, commissioned by Breer, who extract the grains and use these to replace up to one-third of malted barley and yeast normally used to make beer. 
  • Currently, Breer has two craft beers on offer: a pale ale and lager
  • The complete production cycle is available to track on the Breer App, which also connects so-called ‘Breer runners’ (local students who collect the leftover loaves) with local bakeries. 
  • As well as boosting their sustainability credentials, Breer’s commitment to using bread that would otherwise have been thrown away has cut the costs of making beer and the amount of space needed to do so.
  • A clear focus on their target market - young millennials passionate about sustainability and craft brewing - has also contributed to their success (their first soft launch sold out quickly). A wider launch, and partnerships with Pizza Hut and KFC, are in the pipeline for 2021.

👍 The good

  • Using up imperfect or leftover produce that would have otherwise gone straight in the bin is a pretty effective way to help the planet – less food goes to landfill, fewer virgin resources are used in the first place, and fewer people go hungry. 
  • Using wasted edibles also makes good business sense for food brands. As the example of beer-making startup Breer shows, utilising leftovers is often more cost-effective and can be a way for young companies to keep their costs down. 
  • Upcycled food can also have incredible health benefits - often the parts of a food that are thrown away (think fruit peel or cacao waste) are highly nutritious and rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

👎 The bad

  • Some consumers may turn up their noses at eating ‘waste’ food, associating it with bad hygiene or poverty, but careful marketing and clear communication of the benefits is likely to help win over more hesitant customers. 
  • More consumer education is also needed: say ‘upcycled food’ to the average shopper on the street and you’re more likely to be met with a blank stare than not. A 2021 study by Food & Nutrition Sciences found that only 10% of consumers were aware of upcycled products. 
  • Lastly, while food waste can have many positive societal and environmental impacts, it’s probably not a complete solution to the problem of world hunger.

💡 The bottom line

  • Given that food waste is responsible for 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions linked to human activity, saving even some of it from landfill sounds like a great idea - and the sheer wealth of startups working in this area are proof of the promise of upcycled foods

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

♻️ What is it?

  • A misshapen melon. A wonky tomato. The spent grains leftover from brewing beer. ‘Ugly’ fruit and veg that supermarkets would rather chuck out than sell to customers. Sounds like a bunch of missed opportunities, doesn’t it?
  • Makes sense, then, that a whole host of startups and sustainably-minded food entrepreneurs are capitalising on just that: whether it’s snacks produced using leftover juicing pulp or plant milk made from surplus barley, one person’s trash really can be another’s treasure when it comes to food and drink…

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Forbes calls it the ‘coolest trend you’ve probably never heard of’, others call it a ‘no brainer’ - upcycled food, as it’s known, is defined by the Upcycled Food Association as ‘food made with ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, sourced and produced using verifiable supply chains, and with a positive impact on the environment’.

🤷 Why?

  • For many years, world hunger was in decline, but sadly and shockingly, it’s now on the up again. And yet, simultaneously, 1 in 10 people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. It makes total sense, then, to try and use all the edibles out there in the world to feed as many people as possible. 
  • And, in theory, making new products with surplus food should be easy - given that 1.3 bn tonnes per year goes to waste around the world. Companies driven by sustainability and ethical concerns are looking at food waste with new eyes and recognising the potential for environmental gains it represents.
  • Using the byproducts of other food manufacturing processes also makes excellent business sense. There are commercial advantages to using the byproducts of your processes, or buying unused ingredients from others at a low cost. And it’s clear that’s something many businesses have realised: the Upcycled Food Association’s member directory already lists over 150 brands making their money from surplus food products.
  • Consumers are on board too, making the move to low-waste or upcycled products a no-brainer. 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on products that are billed as ethical and sustainable, and upcycled food and drink certainly fits this profile. 

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • Fruit and veg that would have otherwise gone to waste represents another big opportunity. Whether it’s delivering veg boxes full of mishappen, wonky produce (see Oddbox in the UK) or turning ‘ugly’ vegetables into veggie chips (check out Confetti Snacks based in Singapore), there are many opportunities for foodie entrepreneurs. Other companies turning fruit and veg trash into treasure include Fooditive in the Netherlands, who are turning fruit waste into plant-based sweeteners, Kromkommer into soups, and Rscued into fruit juices, smoothies and ice creams. 
  • Rather than pursuing the direct-to-consumer, product-based model, others are building connected platforms and apps to help reduce food waste. UK-based Olio, which invites members to advertise free food and drink that would otherwise have gone to waste, has over 2 million users while US marketplace Full Harvest 
  • Using the waste products of the beer-brewing process is also becoming big business. ReGrained, Hewn Bread and Grain4Grain are all making new food products (like flour, and bread) from brewers’ used grains. A new EU initiative to explore upcycling solutions for brewing waste has found ways to turn spent barley into crackers, fish food and non-alcoholic drinks. 
  • Packaged, better-for-you snacks and functional beverages are another way the upcycled trend is manifesting - that wonky, misshapen avocado really doesn’t matter once it’s been processed into an energy bar. And, of course, the same goes for veggie chips, crackers, juices and smoothies. Barnana, for example, make banana-based snacks using imperfect fruit while Dash Water turn crooked fruit and veg into flavoured waters.
  • And soon - in a sign of the growing awareness and popularity of upcycled foods - the Upcycled Food Association will introduce a new certification mark to provide shoppers with clear guidance about the presence of upcycled ingredients in food and beverages, pet food, dietary supplements and more.
View our foodwaste & upcycling database here

👀 Who? (50+ companies in this space)

📈 The figures

  • Research by Future Market suggests the upcycled food market is already worth $46.7 billion and will grow at an expected CAGR of 5% over the next 10 years.

🥝 Case study: RIND Snacks

  • US-based RIND Snacks wants its customers to ‘keep it real, eat the peel’: the New York City startup makes skin-on dried fruit snacks from fruit that would otherwise have ended up rotting in landfill.
  • The snacks utilise the fruit peel - another edible that is usually automatically discarded - with RIND estimating that they’ve stopped almost 54 tonnes of fruit peel going in the bin in 2020 alone.
  • Using the peel also appeals (see what we did there!) to health-conscious consumers: the rind is packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamins, and so RIND’s creations - including coconut crisps and tangy kiwi dried fruit snacks - are too. 
  • AVailable at over 3,000 stores across the continental US, RIND’s snacks are also available through select delivery services - thanks to fruitful partnerships with low-waste food delivery schemes including Imperfect Foods.
  • This June, the company announced that it had raised $6.1 million in a Series A funding round. The investment will allow the snack startup to ramp up production and develop a new roasted vegetable chips line.

🍺 Case study: Breer

  • Hong Kong startup Breer is tackling the enormous amount of waste produced by the bakery segment with its selection of upcycled craft beers. 
  • Founded by four Hong Kong University students, the startup came into life to both reduce food waste and to manufacture beer in a more cost-effective way. 
  • Breer partners with bakeries and supermarkets to collect some of the thousands of tonnes of bread discarded every day in the Asian city. 
  • The leftover loaves are delivered to local breweries, commissioned by Breer, who extract the grains and use these to replace up to one-third of malted barley and yeast normally used to make beer. 
  • Currently, Breer has two craft beers on offer: a pale ale and lager
  • The complete production cycle is available to track on the Breer App, which also connects so-called ‘Breer runners’ (local students who collect the leftover loaves) with local bakeries. 
  • As well as boosting their sustainability credentials, Breer’s commitment to using bread that would otherwise have been thrown away has cut the costs of making beer and the amount of space needed to do so.
  • A clear focus on their target market - young millennials passionate about sustainability and craft brewing - has also contributed to their success (their first soft launch sold out quickly). A wider launch, and partnerships with Pizza Hut and KFC, are in the pipeline for 2021.

👍 The good

  • Using up imperfect or leftover produce that would have otherwise gone straight in the bin is a pretty effective way to help the planet – less food goes to landfill, fewer virgin resources are used in the first place, and fewer people go hungry. 
  • Using wasted edibles also makes good business sense for food brands. As the example of beer-making startup Breer shows, utilising leftovers is often more cost-effective and can be a way for young companies to keep their costs down. 
  • Upcycled food can also have incredible health benefits - often the parts of a food that are thrown away (think fruit peel or cacao waste) are highly nutritious and rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

👎 The bad

  • Some consumers may turn up their noses at eating ‘waste’ food, associating it with bad hygiene or poverty, but careful marketing and clear communication of the benefits is likely to help win over more hesitant customers. 
  • More consumer education is also needed: say ‘upcycled food’ to the average shopper on the street and you’re more likely to be met with a blank stare than not. A 2021 study by Food & Nutrition Sciences found that only 10% of consumers were aware of upcycled products. 
  • Lastly, while food waste can have many positive societal and environmental impacts, it’s probably not a complete solution to the problem of world hunger.

💡 The bottom line

  • Given that food waste is responsible for 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions linked to human activity, saving even some of it from landfill sounds like a great idea - and the sheer wealth of startups working in this area are proof of the promise of upcycled foods

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

♻️ What is it?

  • A misshapen melon. A wonky tomato. The spent grains leftover from brewing beer. ‘Ugly’ fruit and veg that supermarkets would rather chuck out than sell to customers. Sounds like a bunch of missed opportunities, doesn’t it?
  • Makes sense, then, that a whole host of startups and sustainably-minded food entrepreneurs are capitalising on just that: whether it’s snacks produced using leftover juicing pulp or plant milk made from surplus barley, one person’s trash really can be another’s treasure when it comes to food and drink…

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Forbes calls it the ‘coolest trend you’ve probably never heard of’, others call it a ‘no brainer’ - upcycled food, as it’s known, is defined by the Upcycled Food Association as ‘food made with ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, sourced and produced using verifiable supply chains, and with a positive impact on the environment’.

🤷 Why?

  • For many years, world hunger was in decline, but sadly and shockingly, it’s now on the up again. And yet, simultaneously, 1 in 10 people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. It makes total sense, then, to try and use all the edibles out there in the world to feed as many people as possible. 
  • And, in theory, making new products with surplus food should be easy - given that 1.3 bn tonnes per year goes to waste around the world. Companies driven by sustainability and ethical concerns are looking at food waste with new eyes and recognising the potential for environmental gains it represents.
  • Using the byproducts of other food manufacturing processes also makes excellent business sense. There are commercial advantages to using the byproducts of your processes, or buying unused ingredients from others at a low cost. And it’s clear that’s something many businesses have realised: the Upcycled Food Association’s member directory already lists over 150 brands making their money from surplus food products.
  • Consumers are on board too, making the move to low-waste or upcycled products a no-brainer. 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on products that are billed as ethical and sustainable, and upcycled food and drink certainly fits this profile. 

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • Fruit and veg that would have otherwise gone to waste represents another big opportunity. Whether it’s delivering veg boxes full of mishappen, wonky produce (see Oddbox in the UK) or turning ‘ugly’ vegetables into veggie chips (check out Confetti Snacks based in Singapore), there are many opportunities for foodie entrepreneurs. Other companies turning fruit and veg trash into treasure include Fooditive in the Netherlands, who are turning fruit waste into plant-based sweeteners, Kromkommer into soups, and Rscued into fruit juices, smoothies and ice creams. 
  • Rather than pursuing the direct-to-consumer, product-based model, others are building connected platforms and apps to help reduce food waste. UK-based Olio, which invites members to advertise free food and drink that would otherwise have gone to waste, has over 2 million users while US marketplace Full Harvest 
  • Using the waste products of the beer-brewing process is also becoming big business. ReGrained, Hewn Bread and Grain4Grain are all making new food products (like flour, and bread) from brewers’ used grains. A new EU initiative to explore upcycling solutions for brewing waste has found ways to turn spent barley into crackers, fish food and non-alcoholic drinks. 
  • Packaged, better-for-you snacks and functional beverages are another way the upcycled trend is manifesting - that wonky, misshapen avocado really doesn’t matter once it’s been processed into an energy bar. And, of course, the same goes for veggie chips, crackers, juices and smoothies. Barnana, for example, make banana-based snacks using imperfect fruit while Dash Water turn crooked fruit and veg into flavoured waters.
  • And soon - in a sign of the growing awareness and popularity of upcycled foods - the Upcycled Food Association will introduce a new certification mark to provide shoppers with clear guidance about the presence of upcycled ingredients in food and beverages, pet food, dietary supplements and more.
View our foodwaste & upcycling database here

👀 Who? (50+ companies in this space)

📈 The figures

  • Research by Future Market suggests the upcycled food market is already worth $46.7 billion and will grow at an expected CAGR of 5% over the next 10 years.

🥝 Case study: RIND Snacks

  • US-based RIND Snacks wants its customers to ‘keep it real, eat the peel’: the New York City startup makes skin-on dried fruit snacks from fruit that would otherwise have ended up rotting in landfill.
  • The snacks utilise the fruit peel - another edible that is usually automatically discarded - with RIND estimating that they’ve stopped almost 54 tonnes of fruit peel going in the bin in 2020 alone.
  • Using the peel also appeals (see what we did there!) to health-conscious consumers: the rind is packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamins, and so RIND’s creations - including coconut crisps and tangy kiwi dried fruit snacks - are too. 
  • AVailable at over 3,000 stores across the continental US, RIND’s snacks are also available through select delivery services - thanks to fruitful partnerships with low-waste food delivery schemes including Imperfect Foods.
  • This June, the company announced that it had raised $6.1 million in a Series A funding round. The investment will allow the snack startup to ramp up production and develop a new roasted vegetable chips line.

🍺 Case study: Breer

  • Hong Kong startup Breer is tackling the enormous amount of waste produced by the bakery segment with its selection of upcycled craft beers. 
  • Founded by four Hong Kong University students, the startup came into life to both reduce food waste and to manufacture beer in a more cost-effective way. 
  • Breer partners with bakeries and supermarkets to collect some of the thousands of tonnes of bread discarded every day in the Asian city. 
  • The leftover loaves are delivered to local breweries, commissioned by Breer, who extract the grains and use these to replace up to one-third of malted barley and yeast normally used to make beer. 
  • Currently, Breer has two craft beers on offer: a pale ale and lager
  • The complete production cycle is available to track on the Breer App, which also connects so-called ‘Breer runners’ (local students who collect the leftover loaves) with local bakeries. 
  • As well as boosting their sustainability credentials, Breer’s commitment to using bread that would otherwise have been thrown away has cut the costs of making beer and the amount of space needed to do so.
  • A clear focus on their target market - young millennials passionate about sustainability and craft brewing - has also contributed to their success (their first soft launch sold out quickly). A wider launch, and partnerships with Pizza Hut and KFC, are in the pipeline for 2021.

👍 The good

  • Using up imperfect or leftover produce that would have otherwise gone straight in the bin is a pretty effective way to help the planet – less food goes to landfill, fewer virgin resources are used in the first place, and fewer people go hungry. 
  • Using wasted edibles also makes good business sense for food brands. As the example of beer-making startup Breer shows, utilising leftovers is often more cost-effective and can be a way for young companies to keep their costs down. 
  • Upcycled food can also have incredible health benefits - often the parts of a food that are thrown away (think fruit peel or cacao waste) are highly nutritious and rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

👎 The bad

  • Some consumers may turn up their noses at eating ‘waste’ food, associating it with bad hygiene or poverty, but careful marketing and clear communication of the benefits is likely to help win over more hesitant customers. 
  • More consumer education is also needed: say ‘upcycled food’ to the average shopper on the street and you’re more likely to be met with a blank stare than not. A 2021 study by Food & Nutrition Sciences found that only 10% of consumers were aware of upcycled products. 
  • Lastly, while food waste can have many positive societal and environmental impacts, it’s probably not a complete solution to the problem of world hunger.

💡 The bottom line

  • Given that food waste is responsible for 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions linked to human activity, saving even some of it from landfill sounds like a great idea - and the sheer wealth of startups working in this area are proof of the promise of upcycled foods

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Reports

The 50+ companies driving the shift to plant-based chicken
The 30+ companies utilising big data analytics in the food and drink world
The 30+ companies giving vending machines a healthy, high-tech makeover
‘Upcycled’ food and drink: the brands going circular and transforming trash into treasure
A brave new world: exploring how the Internet of Things (IoT) can help the food industry
Exploring the holy grail of alt-meat: whole-cut plant-based meat and seafood
Alt-Eggs: Meet the startups scrambling to hatch the latest egg substitutes
Fava Beans: Is the humble fava bean the next big thing in plant-based?