New entrepreneurships are popping out every day with the intention of transforming food waste into edible products. In the US alone, the number of companies in the sector has risen from 11 in 2011 to 64 today.
Stale-bread beer, fish cakes made from “ugly” seafood and vodka distilled from leftover strawberries are among the “upcycled” food products coming out of this nascent industry.
“What was once considered ‘waste’ — or an accepted cost of doing business — is now seen as an asset and revenue generator,” said to the Washington post Chris Cochran, the executive director of ReFED, a nonprofit organisation committed to reducing US food waste.
While almost a third of the food produced worldwide is thrown into the garbage can, it’s estimated that one in every nine people in the world still suffers from chronic hunger, including more than 200 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa and more than 500 million in Asia.
These new businesses that focus on turning waste into edible products not only provide new alternatives to the economy, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting thousands of tons of garbage from landfills onto your plate.
One of the obvious major challenges for these companies is to introduce the concept of “upcycled food” as something appealing to the general public.
“Our business is about tackling waste — but how do we do that without grossing people out?” says Dan Kurzrock, co-founder of ReGrained, a business that harvests grain from urban craft breweries and converts it into snacks.
“That’s been part of the complication of dealing with this issue… although it seems like perceptions have shifted.”
Large multinational food companies are keeping close tabs on how these new markets progress. According to Jonathan Deutsch, a professor of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University, many companies are “going into their factories and looking at the nutrition they put in the garbage or the compost bin, and seeing if they can get it on shelves.”
Here in Australia, OzHarvest is working to divert food from landfills and towards people and organisations that need it.