Consumers around the world are becoming even more concerned about the state of the environment. One of the main issues that consumers are most concerned about is food waste. Many consumers have been exposed to high-profile stories about retailers, brands, and food outlets throwing away perfectly edible food. In addition, they will also know that their own shopping and consumption habits are guilty of food waste that can be avoided. In this blog, we discuss the drive of upcycled food and drinks, whilst mentioning some of the companies that have experienced the success of it along the way.
Sustainability is one of the biggest issues for many shoppers right now. Increasingly, most consumers are now opting for brands or products that have recyclable or biodegradable packaging, or even brands that are known to support environmental conservation efforts through direct action or donations.
One of the largest sustainability issues we're currently facing within the food & beverage industry is food waste. According to the Upcycled Food Association, we lose roughly $1 trillion per year on food that is wasted or lost, globally. This is usually down to food going bad before it's able to reach the final consumer or food by-product from manufacturing that is deemed as unusable.
With more than 30% of food that's produced globally heading for the bin, upcycling excess food and by-products has become an extremely popular strategy. Not only does it have consumer appeal, but it also makes sense for the bottom line. But what is the definition of upcycled food?
The term 'upcycled food' has an official definition that's been created by the non-profit Upcycled Food Association - 'Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the human environment'.
Upcycled food is one of the most rapidly growing markets in the food & beverage industry. According to Forbes, "Food Network Magazine and Whole Foods listed upcycled foods as a top trend for 2021 and a report produced by Future Market reveals that the upcycled food market is worth $46.7 billion with an expected CAGR of 5% over the next 10 years.". However, to many people, the idea of eating a product that's made of "waste" seems quite unappealing - but upcycled food is much different than what you're imagining, and with sustainability being the #1 goal to most, it's safe to say that it's here to stay.
Waking Up to Upcycled Food & Drink.
Upcycling took off over the last few years due to the increasing awareness about the scale of the global food crisis that was introduced, alongside of the growing trends towards sustainable businesses. Adding to this, the Covid-19 pandemic has stretched global supply chains, which has given what businesses call a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to try and tackle food waste and make more with less.
The Drive of Upcycled Food & Drink.
Back in 2015, the U.N. had declared its ambition to end food waste by setting a 50% reduction by 2030 with their sustainable development goals. This encouraged governments around the world to adopt the target as an official policy.
Upcycling has since been the go-to solution of choice, not just by policymakers, but also companies, to achieve their waste reduction targets. Below are some of the events that have helped to shape the upcycled food and beverage market globally.
Supermarkets taking action - Supermarkets around the world have started to adopt sustainable upcycling practices to reduce the significant amount of food waste. Many UK stores, including the likes of Tesco and Morrisons, have started to sell its "Perfectly Imperfect" and "Wonky Veg" lines - these practices have now managed to save millions of products from being thrown away.
Whole Foods stores in the US have introduced food donation programs to ensure that "products feed mouths rather than landfills". As the number of upcycled products on the market grows, they're starting to dedicate shelf spaces in stores like MOM's organic Market in the states.
Tech to tackle food waste - Recently, tech companies have been finding new ways to add value and save waste in almost every aspect of food products' life cycles. Apeel Technologies managed to raise $250 million in 2021 for their tech that uses wasted peel and seeds to create an edible coating that doubles the shelf life in other fruit and veg.
PEEL Lab and Orange Fibre are also giving food waste a second chance at life, as they're using fruit to make everything, including yoga mats and clothing items. In short, there's no shortage of start-ups who are building markets for food upcycling with innovative tech.
Bigger brands betting on upcycling - According to Spootshot, the interest in upcycling grew by over 128% in business media last year alone. This reflects the number of producers who, keen to reduce the impacts of food waste on their businesses and the planet, are now investing in upcycling. FMCG giant Unilever have experienced success with upcycling wasted ice cream into brand new ice cream, Cremissimo, which is one of their top-selling flavours in Germany.
Upcycling activity has also been trending in industries that usually produce larger amounts of by-products, such as brewing, chocolate production and fruit and veg producers. Companies such as Nestlé have used waste from cacao fruit that aren't typically used to make products such as cocoa pulp.
The Future of The Industry.
The pressure to be more sustainable isn't just an issue for consumers. There are many brands and grocers that have their sustainability goals that they're trying to reach - and there are many large companies that have already started to transition to more environmentally friendly practices, some are even set to be completely carbon-neutral in the next 10-30 years.
Sustainability in the food & beverage industry is going to continue to be a driving force behind the different shopping behaviours, especially in the coming years as we will all be having more open and honest discussions about the current climate crisis.
It's going to be interesting to see how the market changes in the future - let us know your thoughts on the topic of upcycled food & drink products!