The world is waking up to the financial, social and environmental costs of food waste.
A third of all food produced each year is lost or wasted, and 45% of root crops, fruit and vegetables never make it to the plate, according to Stop Food Waste Day data. These figures are tough to swallow when you consider that just a quarter of wasted food could feed every undernourished person in the world, or that 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions are directly due to food loss.
While individual households are trying to get better at using up what’s in the fridge or the cupboard, some food brands are tackling this problem at the source.
Let’s take a look at nine sustainable companies converting surplus ingredients and by-products into premium food and beverage products:
2. The Coffee Cherry Company
Coffee drinkers know a lot about beans but less about coffee cherries. The coffee plant produces fruit known as cherries, and the beans we grind each morning are the seeds from these cherries. Every year, over 46 billion pounds of cherry pulp is produced in the coffee-making process, most of which gets thrown away.
The Coffee Cherry Company has stopped some of this cherry pulp from going to waste by using a patented process to upcycle it into flours, flakes and concentrates. These by-products have multiple use cases, including bread, baked goods, tea blends and chocolate. Coffee cherry pulp has just received Traditional Food Novel Food Status.
We’ve seen supermarkets and D2C brands reduce food waste by selling wonky fruit and veg, but Kromkrommer has taken this idea one step further. The Dutch food company processes oddly shaped vegetables into a range of upmarket soups.
Kromkrommer is also breaking the stigma surrounding non-standard fruit and vegetables by creating a range of wonky veg toys in collaboration with Plan Toys. The imperfectly shaped playthings are designed to show children that fresh food grows in all shapes and sizes.
Ecuadorian ingredients supplier Semvra is the brains behind Pukpip: frozen bananas dipped in either dark, milk or white chocolate. Pukpip products use wonky bananas and target health-conscious women who want a sweet treat that is also low in calories.
It’s wise for Semvra to invest in this new healthy frozen snack, as hand-held ice cream is a growing food category. Repurposing imperfect bananas as the main ingredient also helps to ensure that Pukpip’s products are HFSS compliant.
5. The Real Dill
Pickles have become an unlikely cult food, with Gen Z taking to TikTok to profess their love for pickling (and take part in viral pickle challenges). And The Real Dill has combined consumer appetite for sour snacks with sustainable production.
Each year, The Real Dill saves over 40,000 lbs of food scraps from the waste bin, converting them into a range of pickled vegetables and sauces. Any remaining food scraps are donated to a local non-profit that composts them for urban farming programmes.
It has even found a way to repurpose the cucumber-infused water from its pickling process, incorporating it into a Bloody Mary Mix, now one of the brand’s best-selling products.
Another US brand, ReGrained, turns by-products from beer-making into pasta, baking mixes and cereal!
ReGrained began when homebrewers Daniel Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz realised the malt (brewers’ grain) they were discarding still had good nutritional value. So they upcycled it to create SuperGrain+®, a patented toasted flour that forms the basis of ReGrained products.
SuperGrain+ has more fibre and protein than wholewheat flour, saving over 300 gallons of water per pound compared to the manufacturing of standard wheat-based flour.
7. Rise & Win Brewing Co.
The town of Kamikatsu in Japan has a unique claim to fame: it’s the first neighbourhood in the country to set the target of becoming zero waste.
Over 80% of Kamikatsu’s waste is currently recycled, and residents have set up schemes like food composting and giving away second-hand items for free. Local businesses are on board with the scheme, too, and Kamikatsu’s Rise & Win Brewing Company sells craft beers in reusable growlers from a store built using salvaged materials.
At Rise & Win’s nearby second brewery, Kamikaze Stonewall Hill Craft & Science, the beer is made from yuko citrus peel discarded by local farmers. Any spent grain is then given to those farmers to use as compost.
8. Rubies in the Rubble
Certain categories have a big brand stronghold, and table sauces is one of them. However, Rubies in the Rubble is challenging for the ketchup crown with its range of sustainably produced sauces.
The condiment company converts surplus fruit and veg into ketchup and relishes, while it uses aquafaba (the waste liquid from chickpeas) to make plant-based mayo.
9. Toast Ale
We’re used to thinking of toast and tea as a perfect combination, but Toast Ale is turning bread into beer! The brand uses surplus loaves instead of barley to brew alcohol with a lower carbon footprint than standard ales and lagers. Its product range includes IPAs, craft lagers, pale ales and low-alcohol lagers.
It’s not just drinkers who are interested in Toast Ale’s ideas: the company secured £2 million in funding at the end of 2022 to scale its work with bakeries. High-profile investors included Heineken International and Paul Polman, the former CEO of Unilever.
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