When global consumers were asked, "What actions have you taken to support the environment or social situation in the past 12 months?" the number one answer was "minimized food waste," with "recycled/upcycled/repurposed products/items" coming in at number two.
Innova Lifestyles and Attitudes Survey, March 2022
Examples of Upcycled Products and Ingredients
Many aspects of food production result in byproducts that until recently have been discarded or, at best, used for animal feed or agricultural fertilizers. But that is changing! Did you know a Wisconsin town uses the salty brine leftover from cheese making to melt snow and ice on city roads**? And scientists are currently studying the upcycling potential of berry pomace from black currant juice production, rice bran left over from milling and polishing rice grains, and olive leaves — a waste from olive oil production that can be ground into flour and made into pizza dough***.
Here are some upcycled ingredients that you might already be using or seeing in other products:
Spent Grains, Coffee Cherries, Fruit Pulp
Coffee Cherries - When harvesting coffee beans, the seed is removed from the fruit (the “cherry”) and the pulp is discarded. Companies are now harvesting the discarded fruit and then drying and processing it. Coffee cherry flour can be added to gluten-free flour blends to add fiber and nutrition.
Spent grains from beer production - these are a flavorful and nutritious byproduct of the beer-making process. Many bakers are finding ways to incorporate them into whole-grain breads and other products.
Fruit & Vegetable Pulp from juicing - extracting the juice from produce leaves behind a dry, fibrous pulp that lacks flavor. This can be added to cookies, breads, veggie chips, and other snacks to boost their fiber content, making them a healthier option.
WholeFruit Chocolate - conventional chocolate production uses only about 30% of the cacao fruit. The production process for Cacao Barry®’s WholeFruit Chocolate uses what would normally have been discarded. This unique process means WholeFruit Chocolate is made entirely from cacao fruit.
WholeFruit Chocolate: 2022 Best Artisan Product
Cacao Barry®’s WholeFruit Chocolate is the first chocolate to qualify for the Upcycled Certified™ mark from the Upcycled Food Association, and WholeFruit Chocolate Evocao was named Best Artisan Product at the 2022 World Food Innovation Awards
Plant-Based Milk Byproducts
Nut Pulp from plant-based milk production - The market for plant-based milks and specifically nut milks has increased dramatically in the last few years. Like juicing, the production process for any kind of nut milk results in leftover pulp that, in the past, has been discarded or sold for animal feed. Now, companies are producing granola, bagels, and muffins with this nutrient-dense byproduct.
Soybean Pulp from tofu & soymilk production - Just like nut milk, producing soymilk results in leftover soybean pulp. Drying and further grinding the pulp produces a flour called okara that is becoming a popular addition to a variety of foods from crackers and cookies to veggie burgers.
*Food Ingredients First December 6, 2021
**NPR “Cheese to the Rescue” January 21, 2014
*** Washington Post September 18, 2021
35% of global consumers agree: A product that contains upcycled ingredients is more appealing to me than other products
Innova Top 10 Bakery Trends for 2022
What is the Upcycled Food Association?
The Upcycled Food Association was founded in June of 2021 by Caroline Cotto and Daniel Kurzrock. Cotto is the founder of Renewal Mill. She was appalled by the amount of pulp produced as a result of making juice and teamed up with another area juice company to put the pulp to good use. The company also sells okara flour.
Daniel Kurzrock started as a hobbyist beer brewer determined to find a use for the grains leftover from the brewing process. Kurzrock founded ReGrained which sells upcycled snacks and partners with other companies to help them do the same. “UFA envisions a circular economy of food, in which millions of consumers prevent food waste with the products they buy. According to Project Drawdown, reducing food waste is the top solution to global warming.”
“It’s important to us that people avoid greenwashing,” Cotto says. “We’ve put a lot of effort into making sure there is integrity behind this term. Tracing the supply chain to make sure there is tangible environmental impact is huge.”