Food Waste Upcycling Poised for Innovation

Food waste upcycling is an area ripe for innovation, according to Oakland Innovation, a technology consultancy specialising in R&D.

With a third of the food produced globally each year, 1.3 billion tonnes, currently wasted, according to the UN, there is a clear, ethical need to address the issue. What’s more, there are commercial benefits, food waste is a hidden cost that harms profitability and inflates consumer process.

Upcycling food waste is one strategy that can be used to address the food waste challenge. In it, waste streams are no longer such, but side streams – converted into new consumer products or ingredients for human consumption.

Here in New Zealand, Plant & Food Research have been looking into the possible side-streams from fish waste, including extracting collagen from the fish skin to use in cosmetic products.

Collaboration is Key

Oakland Innovation has predicted a new era of collaboration to create new opportunities for large and small food and beverage organisations.

The recent collaboration between Kellogg and Seven Bro7hers to create three limited-edition beers from waste generated in the manufacture of popular cereals illustrates the potential for different sub-sectors to jointly tackle food waste with outcomes that generate commercial benefits and positive brand recognition.

Closer to home, Kiwi company Citizen Beer uses surplus bread to create its brew. They then use the brew mash to create a high-quality, nutritious, spent-grain flour that is used to bake Citizen bread.

Many food and beverage organisations have corporate, category or brand-level targets on waste reduction. Kraft Heinz aims to achieve a 15 percent reduction in solid waste sent to landfill and Unilever has a dedicated programme focused on the reduction of food waste.

Nestlé is also aiming to halve food waste by 2030, part of this involves working with smallholders to reduce food waste and loss at the local level in the supply chain.

“There are so many factors to balance with an upcycled food waste product,” said David Nightingale, Principal Consultant, Food and Beverages at Oakland Innovation. “From a sustainability point of view, you need to be sure that upcycling represents a better use of resources than other options, it also needs to be financially viable.

A spirit of collaboration, however, could help deliver a successful upcycled product via specialist skills and technical capabilities. The possibilities are only just being realised.