“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” As old as that saying is, it still rings true. Believe it or not repurposing food waste into profitable products is gathering momentum in the Food & Beverage industry. Thanks to some sustainable foodies, food waste from one business is now a product for another.
The Juice Craze
You probably have noticed one of the biggest health food trends right now is juice. Upscale juice bars have popped up all over the country. You can buy health juices in almost any store, and consumers even have the option to sign up for juice cleanse subscriptions. If consumers demand it, juice companies will supply.
If you have a juice company or have tried juicing at home, you know that juicing takes a lot of material for a little bit of juice. And once the desired amount of juice had been pressed, what is left? A lot of food waste.
The True Waste
This leftover food waste, called pomace, is all the pulp and fiber that remains from the fruits and vegetables when their juice is pressed out. And because so much more pomace is produced than juice, both juice bars and consumers have more of it than they know what to do with. While the more environmentally-friendly throw it into the compost bin, it can often end up in the trash.
But when this so-called food ‘waste’ is trashed, viable nutrients and fibers are being discarded and lost. Fruit and vegetable pulp is full of gut-healthy fiber loaded with prebiotics. Food sources that create the good bacteria in your gut. These prebiotics help your body absorb and digest nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. And pulp only has a third of the sugar found in whole fruits and vegetables. Discarding this pulp is the real ‘waste’.
Seeing this waste, several health food enthusiasts realized that there was huge potential to be found in pomace. Friends Kaitlin Mogentale and Ashley Miyasaki were filled with ideas about how to repurpose the leftover fruit and vegetable fiber, which ultimately led them to found their company Pulp Pantry. Now they make granola bars, crackers, and even baking mixes with pomace. Similarly, John-Charles Hanley makes veggie crackers from the pomace leftover from his beverage business, Forager, which specializes in juices and cashew milk.
Trial, Error, and Success
While both brands are experiencing success now, it took a while for them to get to this point. Because fruit and vegetable waste is perishable and very stringy, it can be hard to work with at first. Both brands went through periods of trial and error to determine how best to use the leftover materials. They discovered that pomace is easiest to work with once its dehydrated and ground into flour. In flour form, the pomace doesn’t need to be refrigerated so there are no concerns about spoilage.
Since Pulp Pantry and Forager successfully proved that repurposing food waste is possible, other brands have followed suit. With pomace, brands have created veggie burgers, flours, pet food, and have even flavored ice cream.
Each new use of pomace shows that repurposing leftovers is not only sustainable, but profitable as well. These two concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive for businesses. They can meet in the middle, and in this case, health food is the bridge between the two.
Not Just Juice
Another area of the Food & Beverage industry is also repurposing waste with unprecedented success. If you are in the coffee industry, or frequent a Starbucks store, you might have heard of ‘cascara’.
Discovered by El Salvadorian coffee farmer Aida Batlle, cascara is the pleasant flavor that is extracted from the leftover husks of coffee beans. This flavor has caused such a sensation in the beverage industry. Depending where on the coffee plant was grown, the husk and its cascara taste can vary widely in flavor. Coffee plants grown in more tropical climates produce cascara with lighter notes like green apple, hibiscus, and papaya. Coffee plants grown in other environments produce cascara flavors with heavier notes like port, raisin, and maple.
Along with different flavor combinations, cascara is subtler and doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee. Because it is so versatile, cascara has been used to make all kinds of drinks, from hot tea to cold carbonated beverages. The beverage industry has found so much potential in cascara that it is now more expensive than actual coffee beans, and is used by the likes of Starbucks, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and Blue Bottle Coffee.
The Future of Waste
Based on the success of both pomace and cascara, there seem to be a strong market for repurposing waste into something new, and tasty. While health food trends are changing the landscape of the Food & Beverage industry, it seems that it might be for the better. By creating businesses out of raw material left behind in the creation of health foods, consumers and industry insiders alike can be part of a healthier and more sustainable future.