Food & Beverage

The 8 Most Exciting Brands Saving Food Waste by Upcycling Ingredients

Here at vegconomist we applaud and support innovation in plant-based but especially those who are working on upcycling ingredients and helping to solve the horrific global issue of food waste whereby around a third of the food produced around the world is discarded.

The issue is beyond imperative but it is not beyond solution, so we here celebrate some of the brands innovating for our planet, upcycling ingredients from spent grain, to cashew fruit, to cauliflower and carrots.

Spent barley from the beer industry – Take Two

Portland-based Take Two transforms barley grains leftover from beer brewing into nutritious, fiber-rich barley milk. A subsidiary of EverGrain, owned by beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, Take Two reuses over 500,000 pounds of discarded grain each year.

Co-Founder & COO Matthew Olsofsky said last year: “We are on track to upcycle at least 500,000 pounds of spent grain this year, which is just scratching the surface of the billions of pounds of spent grain that go to waste annually. In tackling solving the 8 billion pounds of spent grain waste created annually, we are on a mission to transform the food system via upcycling.”

Take Two founders
©Take Two

Cashew fruit – Caju Love

In 2021, Hawaii’s Caju Love introduced the first-ever cashew meat made from upcycled cashew apples. A byproduct of the cashew nut industry, the highly nutritious cashew apple is naturally meaty and the company says it cooks like chicken, pork, or ground meat.

“When I found out that cashew nuts grew on a fruit that was considered waste in the nut industry, I knew we had to do something to change that. The fruit is full of health benefits and cooks just like chicken, pork, tuna and ground meat—it is delicious. My mission is to share with the world a quality whole food plant-based meat alternative that is good for you and sustainable,” said Co-founder Felipe Barreneche.

BBQ sandwich with cashew fruit meat
©Cajú Love

Cauliflower – Grounded Foods

Australia – LA brand Grounded, repurposes cauliflower, combined with fermented hemp, into a premium line of dairy-free cheeses. Through such repurposing, the brand says it can offer its cheeses at a lower price point with increased sustainability benefits. 

Speaking to vegconomist after last October’s $2.5 million pre-Series A round, Co-founder Veronica Fil said: “From day one, our goal has been to create products that taste incredible — and genuinely appeal to non-vegan consumers who aren’t willing to compromise. In order to achieve that, we looked at how vegan cheese is currently made — then threw away the rulebook and started again from scratch. New ingredients, new process, and a focus on flavor and texture first.”

Stay tuned for some exciting news coming next week from Grounded Foods!

Cauliflower Camambert Grounded
©Grounded Foods

Cabbage – Naylor Farms 

In 2021, UK-based Naylor Farms revealed plans to transform cabbage into innovative, functional protein ingredients.  The company utilizes leftovers from coleslaw production such as cabbage crop, trimmings and leaves. Naylor says cabbage is a “super sustainable protein”, and has developed a patented cold-extraction process to produce higher-protein ingredients.

“The world has a growing requirement and desire for quality, sustainable plant-based food and to deliver this, we will need to grow crops that have positive functional benefits but without the negative environmental impact that soy, for example, has. Cabbage, on the other hand, is fully traceable from field to consumer, sustainable and relatively simple to grow with a high yield. This innovative facility is being built on our land so the food miles from field to processing are at a minimum,” explained Simon Naylor, CEO of Naylor Nutrition.

Cabbages from Naylor Farms
©Naylor Farms

Fruit pits – Kern Tec

This Austrian startup has discovered the valuable nutrition inside the discarded pits of fruits like apricots, cherries and plums. A participant in the ProVeg incubator, the company has developed unique supply chain technology to process thousands of pits into items like oils, dairy-free ice cream and yogurt.

“We at Kern Tec believe that there are far too many side streams in food production. We have developed a unique supply chain and technology to process the valuable fruit pits from apricots, cherries, and plums. These usually discarded raw materials are turned into new ingredients for companies in the food and beverage industry.

“Our mission is to upcycle hundreds of thousands of tons of pits and develop new and unique products to bring into everyone’s daily diets,” said the Kern Tec founders to vegconomist in 2021.

Kern Tec
© Kern Tec

Okara – Luya Foods

More than 14 million tons of okara, the waste product from tofu and soy milk production, are discarded globally every year despite its high nutrition and fiber content. Luya Foods, a spinoff from Switzerland’s Bern University, converts okara into flavorful plant-based alternatives such as ready-to-cook chunks and burger patties.

“We are very pleased to have secured the necessary capital to launch Luya in the Swiss market, prepare our international expansion and accelerate our mission to define a new category in meat alternatives with our natural and organic products,” said co-founder Flavio Hagenbuch following the company’s seed round last year.

Luya Foods
© Luya Foods AG

Carrots – Seconds

Seconds is an innovative snack brand that “rescues” neglected carrots by milling them into flour, adding seasonings and baking them into crispy, gluten-free crackers. 

“At Seconds we are on a mission to reduce food waste by making sustainable snacking delicious, healthy & fun. With 40% of food wasted in America alone, we could no longer sit on the sidelines. 40%?! Hard to believe, right? It’s true, 80 billion pounds of food is wasted in America every year. That’s over 200 pounds per person,” says the New York startup.


Seconds Upcycled Crackers

Cauliflower, other veg – Wholly Veggie

Canadian brand Wholly Veggie also turns vegetables into value-added products by sourcing misfit or unsellable produce. The brand has teamed up with Outcast Foods to release innovations like plant-based Mozzarella Sticks and a patented gluten-free cauliflower crust.

“Our mission is simple, make it easy for anyone to add healthy, vegetable-focused foods into their diet,” says Johnathan Bonnell, Co-Founder, Wholly Veggie.

wholly veggie!
©CNW Group/Wholly Veggie

If your brand uses upcycled ingredients and we missed you, feel free to get in touch via [email protected]

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