Upcycled Food Might Be the Future of Sustainability

Upcycled Food Might Be the Future of Sustainability

Food waste is a big problem. Here in the U.S. alone, we’re throwing away an estimated $162 billion in food each year, and most of it isn’t even spoiled. Some organizations like Chicago-based Zero Percent rescue restaurant leftovers, saving them from the dumpsters and repurposing them as meals for hungry folks.

But what about ingredients that are relegated to the category of “waste products,” yet are safe and nutritious to eat? These might be edible by-products, like whey, or grocery store fruits and veggies that are considered too old to sell.

For the most part, this stuff gets thrown away. But removing it from the waste stream can take pressure off landfills and find valuable use for food that required resources to grow and harvest.

Players in the food upcycling scene

ReGrained and Rubies in the Rubble are two companies already creating and selling products made with ingredients taken from the waste stream. San Francisco-based ReGrained makes granola bars from spent beer grains. Rubies in the Rubble, located in London, makes relishes and other condiments using surplus fruits and vegetables.

Upcycled Food pbs rewireThey’ve had to figure out how to market food made with ingredients otherwise destined for the dumpster.

“We’ve run into problems with phrasing things like ‘food waste’ or something that’s unwanted,” said ReGrained community manager Cassidy Lundy.

According to a recent study, the language companies use to describe products made this way matters. It makes sense— “food made with waste ingredients” isn’t exactly appetizing.

Researchers at Drexel University tested how consumers responded to nine different names for this type of food: upcycled, recycled, upscaled, rescaled, reprocessed, reclaimed, up-processed, resorted and rescued.