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These 12 organizations are creating food products from upcycled food waste

From cashew apples to bread, these companies and nonprofits are turning potential food waste into goods. Over 1 billion tons of food is wasted annually across the globe. 

Box of stale green apples on a dark black cement background

Photo by Elena11 on Shutterstock.

Entrepreneurs are taking on food waste across the world in some truly creative ways — turning what many consider garbage into delicious — and nutritious — products. 

Their efforts are part of a growing trend to battle one of the world’s most pressing environmental and agricultural problems. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually across the globe — if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. 

But companies and nonprofit organizations around the world are working to reduce food waste by upcycling food and creating high quality, nutritive products.

As defined by the Upcycled Food Association (UFA), upcycled foods "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." UFA is working to reduce food waste while improving the environment through research, networking and policy advocacy.

"We can take these very large waste streams and we can upcycle them into safe, tasty, healthy products and ingredients that can work at large scale distribution," said Timothy Childs, co-founder of Treasure8, a regenerative food systems company.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually across the globe — if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Food Tank is highlighting 12 companies and nonprofit organizations that are tackling waste through upcycled food around the world. With their products, they hope to help create a more sustainable food system. 

1. Aqua Botanical, Australia

Developed by chemical engineer Bruce Kambouris in 2016, Aqua Botanical is working to create drinking water to combat water scarcity, one of the biggest problems in the world. The company extracts, filters and mineralizes the water used from the production of juice concentrate. It is the recipient of the 2019 Beverage of the Year award at the Australian Food and Beverage Industry Awards.

2. Kromkommer, The Netherlands

Kromkommer was founded in 2012 to rescue imperfect produce that otherwise would be thrown away. In 2014, the company launched Wonky Veggie Soup, a line of soups created from rescued produce. One year later, it opened its Wonky Vegetable and Fruit store to sell imperfect produce. Kromkommer was the recipient of the Mansholt Business Award for Sustainable Entrepreneurship in 2018. 

3. Matriark Foods, United States

Founded by former Sylvia Center Executive Director Anna Hammond in 2018, Matriark Foods captures surplus produce from farms and processes it into soup and sauce bases. It aims to supply health vegetable products to serve schools, hospitals and food banks to supply healthy vegetable products. This year, the organization was awarded the ReFED COVID-19 Food Waste Solution grant to help feed people in need while reducing food waste.

4. NETZRO, United States

Created in 2014 as an upcycled ingredient company, NETZRO works with large and small-scale farmers to reharvest food byproducts and develop new innovative ingredients. Some projects include upcycling egg shells or calcium and spent grain for fiber and protein. The company is led by CEO Sue Marshall, who is also a founding member of the Upcycled Food Association. 

5. Pure Plus, United States

Pure Plus turns imperfect fruits and vegetables into a powdered sugar substitute that can be integrated into food and beverage products. The powder can be found in its first product, Faves Candy. Its goal is to divert fruit and vegetable waste to reduce the environmental impact and cost of food waste. The organization was selected as a finalist in the consumer technology category at the 12th annual SXSW Pitch.

6. RISE + WIN Brewing Co., Japan

Using scraps from Yuko citrus peels and returnable bottles, RISE + WIN Brewing Co. is upcycling products in every step of the brewing process. The spent grain produced in the process of brewing, for example, is used to make granola and sweets sold at its general store. In an effort to recycle whenever possible, its storefront is built from recycled wood and glass bottle chandeliers, and uses uniforms made from recycled clothing.

7. Rubies in the Rubble, United Kingdom

Jenny Costa of London created Rubies in the Rubble in 2012 with the goal to make condiments out of rejected food products. Rubies also makes mayonnaise with aquafaba, a chickpea liquid alternative to eggs that is usually thrown out. It reports that it has saved upwards of 298,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables since its inception. The organization won a European-wide social enterprise competition run by U.S. ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s.

8. Sweet Benin, West Africa

Sweet Benin is working with TechnoServe to create cashew apple juice. Only 10 percent of the 127,005,864 kilograms of cashew apples are processed in Benin every year, contributing to massive amounts of food waste. In 2018, the company produced 180,000 bottles of cashew apple juice and is working to help cashew farmers supplement their off-season income.

We can take these very large waste streams and we can upcycle them into safe, tasty, healthy products and ingredients that can work at large scale distribution.

9. Toast Ale, United Kingdom

Founder of Toast Ale and author of "Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal," Tristram Stuart is working to reduce the 24 million slices of bread that goes to waste every day in the United Kingdom. To do this, Toast Ale uses donated surplus bread to replace one-third of the malted barley used in its beer brewing process. The organization recently won the SME of the Year award at the 2020 Edie Sustainability Leaders Awards.

10. Treasure8, United States

Founded in 2011 by food tech entrepreneur Timothy Childs and his partner Inessa Childs, Treasure8 is a regenerative food systems company working to solve food insecurity by reducing global food waste. The company aims to divert food waste from landfills and create nutrient-rich food products and ingredients. Treasure8 is a 2020 grant recipient of the ReFED COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund.

11. Upcycled Grain Project, New Zealand

The Upcycled Grain Project uses grain from brewers around New Zealand to create health-focused snack foods. Started in 2020 by Rutherford & Meyer, a fruit paste producer, the project is highlighting ways to use 100 percent natural ingredients while increasing sustainably produced products in stores. 

12. Wize Monkey, Canada

After traveling to Nicaragua and meeting their coffee growing partner Armando Iglesias in 2013, Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet launched Wize Monkey. The organization works to help farmers sustain a year-round income by using leaves of the arabica coffee plant, often neglected, to make tea. In 2017, the organization won Best Mission-Based Product at World’s Largest Natural Products Expo’s NEXTY awards.

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