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12 Companies Creating Upcycled Food from Waste Products

According to a recent report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food upcycling is one of the three most environmentally friendly ways to mitigate food waste. As companies try to reduce their impact on the environment, many are rescuing food and using innovative methods to produce upcycled products.

Upcycled foods are made with ingredients that would not have otherwise been consumed by humans, according to the Upcycled Food Association. These foods might have gone to landfills, anaerobic digesters or incinerators, or been converted into animal feed.

Anna Hammond, the CEO of upcycled company Matriark Foods, tells Food Tank that by creating upcycled foods for human consumption, “the food system will change for the better and the positive impact of that will make it possible for us all to exist in a healthier world. I know it’s possible, I’ve seen what we’ve been able to accomplish in just a few years and so I have a lot of hope for this space.”

Food Tank is highlighting 12 companies that upcycle food waste into new products from snacks, to ready-to-eat meals, cooking ingredients, and more.

1. ÄIO, Estonia

ÄIO uses waste streams from the food, agriculture, and wood industries to produce fat substitutes for food and cosmetics. Their products serve as sustainable alternatives to butter, oil, nutritional yeast, and more. ÄIO’s products produce 160 kT less CO2 per year in comparison to the palm oil industry; this is equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions per year of over 34,000 passenger vehicles, according to estimates by the EPA. Palm oil is the most commonly traded vegetable oil in the world and has a very large carbon footprint because it is often linked to deforestation or conversion of carbon-rich environments.

2. Bake Me Healthy, United States

Bake Me Healthy founder Kimberle Lau struggled to find healthy baking mixes for her kids, she also became lactose and egg intolerant and was unable to eat soy. These life changes inspired her to create clean plant-based baking mixes. Bake Me Healthy mixes are free from the nine most common allergens and made with fruits and vegetables that do not fit aesthetic standards to be sold in grocery stores and byproducts from fruit and vegetable processing.

3. Barnana, United States

Barnana partners with indigenous-run regenerative farms in Latin America to source bananas and plantains that are diverted from market. Typically, while these fruits are perfectly edible, they are considered too ripe for the journey to market. From these fruits, Barnana makes plantain and banana snacks like chips, bites, and scoops.

4. Cascara Foods, Chile

Cascara Foods rescues fruit pulp and byproducts like peels and stems that hold key nutrients essential to a healthy diet. They transform these materials into nutritional supplements, vegetable protein powders, and even bars and pancake mixes.

5. Crust, Japan

Crust Group operates in Singapore and Japan and partners with restaurants and hotels to help them reduce food waste. The company primarily upcycles surplus bread and other ingredients into beer and surplus fruit peels into non-alcoholic fruit juice. Crust incentivizes partnerships by creating custom branded products with their food surplus partners and is open to upcycling a wide range of food products.

6. Green Bowl, United States

When two food scientists became overwhelmed by the amount of nutritious food going to waste, they created Green Bowl. The company makes ready-to-eat, shelf stable, and preservative free plant-based meals with a mix of fresh and upcycled ingredients. Their complete rice, quinoa and lentil bowls include ingredients like brewer’s spent grains, fruit and vegetable pulp from juice factories, and cereal residue from plant-based milk factories for added nutrition and flavor.

7. I Am Grounded, Australia

From the time coffee is harvested to when it is consumed, research published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology shows that over 95 percent of the plant’s biomass is wasted. This is because there is demand for the seeds, but not the surrounding fruit or other parts of the plant. I Am Grounded has turned coffee fruit into energy bars since 2019, saving over 15,000 kilograms of fruit, or the equivalent weight of about 2.5 African elephants. The company also works with workers along the coffee supply chain to empower them to commercialize coffee byproducts.

8. Matriark Foods, United States

Rather than wasting surplus vegetables from farms or fresh cut remnants, Matriark transforms them into healthy, low-sodium vegetable products like pasta sauce and vegetable broth. According to Matriark, every gallon of their vegetable broth concentrate contains 0.9 pounds of waste diverted from landfills, reduces 2.23 pounds of greenhouse gas, and saves 102 gallons of water. Matriark also works with restaurants, schools, hospitals, and other large institutions to ensure wider access to their sustainable products.

9. Oisix, Japan

Oisix ra Daichi is a Japanese retailer that focuses on selling quality organic and additive free products to consumers. Upcycle by Oisix and Radish Boya are two lines from the company that rescue quality, edible food from the waste stream and return it to consumers. Upcycle by Oisix is a line of products made from ingredients that are considered aesthetically or texturally undesirable, like seaweed with holes in it and brewed coffee grounds, while Fuzoroi Radish by Radish Boya rescues and distributes substandard ingredients like fruits, vegetables and other products.

10. Planetarians, United States

Since it was created in 2013, Planetarians has focused on creating nutritious food products from upcycled ingredients. Over the years, the company’s mission has been to create nutritious, affordable and upcycled food. Currently, Planetarians uses spent yeast and soybeans to create a vegan meat product; they have made the product as cheap as chicken and cheaper than beef and it produces 120 times less greenhouse gas emissions than beef.

11. Pluck, Canada

Toronto-based tea company Pluck was founded in 2012 to produce quality sustainable teas from local ingredients. Pluck sells a wide range of teas, but one of their lines is made with locally produced waste products like fruit peels and cacao shells. Pluck also uses zero waste packaging, locally sourced ingredients that reduce transportation emissions, and small batch production.

12. Rootly, Denmark

Rootly produces plant-based meat products like falafel and steak using surplus beet, carrot, and mushrooms and excess pulp from juice production. Along with these products, the company sells flavored carrot snacks from carrot parts that do not fit traditional standards.

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Photo courtesy of Aaina Sharma, Unsplash

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