Upcycled Food – Trends are Aligning to Accelerate Growth

Mondalez International

Less than three years ago the Upcycled Food Association was formed and only a year ago, the Upcycled Certification Standard was formally approved.

Today, more than 140 products and ingredients featuring the Upcycled Certified logo are on the market. The figure is minuscule when placed in the context of the US food and beverage marketplace, but the certification and rapid growth have prompted market researchers to identify and highlight upcycling as a leading trend in 2022.

Consumers who are more and more focussed on sustainability along with their personal health and the health of the planet,  plus the global pandemic that turned many longstanding food consumption trends upside down, equal the perfect storm for this forward-thinking innovation in food ingredients.

The trend has not gone unnoticed by food and beverage manufacturers large and small. Mondelez International’s SnackFutures business unit has supported the development of CaPao and Dirt Kitchen, brands utilising upcycled ingredients.

Barry Callebaut is working on extracting vanillin from hazelnut shells, and Nestlé SA is exploring the use of coffee fruit, cocoa pulp and other byproducts of its own production processes to incorporate into new consumer products.

Venture capitalists are investing millions of dollars in upcycled food startups. ReHarvest Provisions, for example, a maker of single-serve smoothies formulated with rescued produce, recently raised $1.5 million in a seed funding round. Agua Bonita, a beverage maker that flavours its products with upcycled produce, raised $2 million in a pre-seed round, and Spudsy, a snack maker that uses imperfect sweet potatoes in its puffed snacks, raised $3.3 million.

Adding to the energy propelling the trend is a focus by regional governments to limit the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills. In California, for example, the state’s newly enacted organic waste reduction law requires the development of programs that allow consumers and businesses like restaurants and hospitals to ensure food waste is redirected and disposed of in a sustainable manner.

Such regulations will create greater awareness around businesses focused on reducing food waste and may even create supply chains for some upcycled applications.

It may feel as if this pandemic will never end, and food and beverage manufacturers have little choice but to focus attention on managing supply chains and maintaining inventories. But the pandemic will end, and when that happens consumer demand for sustainable products is likely to expand the exciting opportunities already evident for manufacturers of upcycled food and ingredients.