Food Waste as a Catalyst for Innovation
What waste does your own business generate?
Can you collaborate with other industries?
Are there opportunities to sell your food waste to others?
Is there an opportunity to be innovative and rethink how your dispose of your waste?
Can you enhance the reputation of your business & tell the story?
In our presentation at The Food & Drink Expo, we looked at how Apples, Oranges, Coffee Husks, Coffee Grounds, and Bread are all examples of how waste from food production and processing has given some innovative entrepreneurs the basis for developing new business opportunities.
Waste, as a by-product of an industrial manufacturing process has often been the catalyst of discovery and inspiration. A new product or discovery has been revealed, sometimes by accident, in a search for something entirely different. It has often made the discoverer very wealthy in the process, especially when able to be built to a commercial scale.
For example, in the 1800’s in industrial Britain, Coal Tar was produced in the process of gas production. Britain was producing vast quantities of gas to fuel the industrial revolution, so coal tar waste was created in equally large quantities. Many were looking at how to use this abundant source of waste, sometimes even competitions were held to spark new ideas.
In 1852, an 18-year-old Chemist, William Perkin, while he was searching how to create artificial quinine from Coal Tar for inexpensive Malaria treatment, he discovered quite by accident how to create the colour purple as a synthetic dye, when a cloth he was using turned Purple. This transformed the dying industry and was only the beginning as then went on to aid other important discoveries in completely unrelated areas, including DNA, photography, chemotherapy and many others.
The search for using up waste, particularly large amounts created in food production and processing in industrial production has created opportunities for many new businesses ever since, particularly during scarcities and in times of conflict. Most societies used to have a ‘make do and mend’ and ‘use up everything’ attitude but maybe we have forgotten how to utilize waste in the last few affluent generations than we used to do?
As sustainability becomes essential for brands, retailers, producers and consumers to embrace and investigate, once again, today’s businesses are returning to seeing food waste as an opportunity to use up resources that are essentially free of charge, often expensive to dispose of, and looking at ways that see waste as a valuable resource and are doing things differently.
As the resources of our planet are limited, and we are using 1.6 times our planet’s natural resources, the true value of any wasted resource is now recognized. With the global population heading for 8.5 bln by 2030, food production is also increasing so innovation in new products and production of waste by-products in food and drinks industries, is an imperative for companies to consider, and to build into the strategy of their businesses in future.
Using waste from industry is certainly not niche, and allows new innovations to be researched and developed, and not at the expense of our virgin resources.
So, is waste a problem or can it be an opportunity?
One third of all food is wasted, either in supply chains or with the consumer, and estimated that 1.3 bln tonnes is wasted globally each year, 15 mln tonnes annually in the UK alone. Yet, using waste in circular economy solutions have been estimated as a global $1Trillion annual opportunity.
Here we highlight some innovative businesses that have emerged and are
scalable to tackle food production waste.
Fruit – Apples & Oranges from juicing and compote industry
Coffee – Coffee husks and used coffee grounds
Bread – Unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from the sandwich making industry
Apple production waste
Apples are the most common fruit type grown in the EU, harvesting over 12 mln tonnes annually. Apples are produced in almost all EU Member States, with Poland (28.7%), Italy (19.5%) and France (14.5%) being the largest producers.
New products created from Apple production waste.
Frumat, around nine years ago started out as a kitchen paper manufacturer and then a notebook business in Bolzano, Italy. This business creates products from materials made of apple waste pulp from the juice & compote making industry, where around 100,000 tonnes of apples would just decompose away in the local area alone. The paper range then developed on into craft paper, tissues, toilet paper and kitchen rolls and is called Cartamela- Apple-Paper. Then, while searching for a solution to develop a vegetable glue from apple pulp paste, Frumat discovered instead that the pulp could be used to make a synthetic leather material and created PellaMela- Apple Leather. ‘AppleSkin’ then evolved into a synthetic leather for notebook covers, then expanded and used in furniture and seating, shoes and handbags. They have even created a synthetic leather for apparel which featured in the Green Carpet Challenge in Milan Fashion week in 2017. It is being used as ‘Vegan Leather’ in products by several Italian and international brands.
Orange production waste
The EU total orange production is around 6.4 mln tonnes, with Italy producing over 25%. In 2016 juice production in Catania, Sicily juiced (in tonnes) 140,000 lemons, 100,000 blonde oranges,100,000 blood oranges, 40,000 green & matured mandarins.
Sicily produces approximately 200,000 tonnes of non-edible waste from oranges (This non-edible waste, rind, pips and seeds is called Pastazzo). Costs of disposal of this Pastazzo is around 16 mln Euros annually so producers do have a financial incentive to find uses for and re-use the Pastazzo.
Innovations using Orange waste.
The University of Catania have developed a way to process orange waste to be used to make fat-free flour that could substitute up to half the use of fat in bakery products which could be healthier and stay fresher. The orange flour is made from Pistazzo. These raw materials are provided free from the juice makers, so costs almost nothing to produce.
Orange Fiber – Another innovative company created by using the waste from the citrus juice industry in Catania, Orange Fiber have created a silk- like fibre for the fashion and apparel industry. As citrus waste is seasonal, it can be turned into cellulose then stored for use to turn into yarn as needed. Again, the raw waste materials are virtually free.
In Mussomeli, in the middle of Sicily, Citrus waste products are used to make biogas which is converted into electricity. Previously, farmers had used this orange waste to feed cattle or a fertilizer, so now the waste can be used as an energy resource.
Coffee Husks and Used Coffee Grounds
Coffee Husks -1.7 mln tonnes of coffee husk waste produced each year from coffee production
Estimated that 3 kgs of husk waste is produced per coffee drinker annually
Coffee Grounds – 80 mln cups of coffee a day consumed in UK alone.
1% of biomass is used in the cup, 99% (the coffee grounds) are discarded and usually goes into landfill.
Disposable Cups – around 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a day being discarded in UK every year, (approx. 7 min a day).
Less than 6 million cups are being recycled each year, which is 0.25 of 1%, (just 1 in 400) or less than one day’s worth
Huskee Cup – An Australian collective created a ceramic cup that is made from coffee husk waste, a by-product of farming coffee beans. The cup material is durable enough for use in cafes and in a dishwasher, and it doesn’t chip or crack. Using the husks from coffee farming eliminates the cost of disposal of the husk waste and creates a closed loop system, as the Huskee cup is recyclable too at end of life.
The business was kickstarted by a crowdfunding campaign and video, ‘From Bean to Cup’, tells their story, as they were surrounded by the husk waste they were creating in coffee bean production, so looked for a solution to this. This creates a great brand story that consumers can relate to and engage with!
Kaffeeform – is another husk coffee cup created in Germany.
GroCycle – Mushroom growing- urban city farming and education
Urban mushroom farms have sprouted up now in London, Sydney and Paris. GroCycle based in Exeter, UK, grows Shitake and Oyster mushrooms for restaurants and delis. They use the waste coffee grounds that they collect from coffee shops, restaurants and cafes in the local area as the ‘soil’ base to grow high quality mushrooms. The advantages of this circular approach are that they supply locally grown food, and several new small businesses can be created locally to grow high quality mushrooms. GroCycle even run courses to show you how to build a mushroom growing business in your own local area. Creating a business of food grown in urban city farm agriculture, which requires no land to produce a food crop.
Building a business from Unsold Bread & Unused Bread Crusts
Bread is the number one most wasted food in the UK, and 44% of all bread is wasted, around 900,000 tonnes wasted each year
Toast Ale – ‘building a business that is economically sound and scalable’.
Toast Ale have created a beer brand and business using unused and unsold waste bread collected from bakeries and sandwich makers. Using this bread waste instead of being discarded gives added value to waste and creates a new product that can be produced by breweries, without any special equipment and can be adapted to local beer tastes and regions
In Toast Ale, wasted bread can replace around one third of malted grain used in beer brewing (then only adding + Hops, Yeast, Water). This is not a new idea, as bread was used in beer brewing in ancient cultures, but it is a new business approach to tackle a modern food waste problem. This product tells a fabulous & engaging story to consumers, and the play on the word Toast in English for both bread and for beer, creates a perfect brand name!
Toast Ale is a Social Enterprise and a B-Corp business, with 100% of profits going into Feedback, an organisation working to address food waste.
What can you do now? As a food and beverage business – EXPLORE!
At Global Bright Futures, we want to see other great product stories generated from food waste, so do get in touch, if you have a food waste issue or your own story of another solution you have found, or would like us to help to brainstorm some ideas.
Global Bright Futures presented ‘Waste as a Catalyst for Innovation’ at The Food & Drink Expo, Ricoh Arena, Coventry – 2nd Oct 2018