How CRUST Is Pioneering Japan's Upcycling Movement
A special article for the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, September 29th, 2022
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Happy Tuesday Market Shakers. This Thursday, September 29th is the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. Earlier this year we wrote in detail about the issue of food loss and waste here in Japan, including introductions to some of the innovators who are working to solve this problem. As a subject that we care a lot about at Market Shake, we’re dedicating this week’s content to catching up on it.
Our first piece of content is an exclusive interview with CRUST Japan, a pioneer of the upcycled food movement in Asia. CRUST has helped to raise awareness amongst mass-market consumers about the issue of food loss and waste with their popular beer which is made by upcycling bread. Today we discuss how they manage their upcycling operations in Japan and what the nation needs to scale up upcycling activity to the next level!
Watch the Big Idea Food Competition Japan edition: October 5th, 2022
On October 5th, 2022, Big Idea Ventures in collaboration GourmetPro and Sustainable Foods Asia will hold the Japan edition of the Big Idea Ventures Food Competition (BIFC).
Participate in this free online event and uncover the next-gen F&B innovations coming from Japan, and hear insights from leaders from across Japan’s F&B industry.
About BIFC Japan
The online event brings together 5 of Japan’s top early-stage startups (pre-series A) to pitch their alt-protein, plant-based and fermentation-based products and innovations as part of Asia’s biggest startup competition. A panel of expert judges, including leaders from SIGMAXYZ, ITOCHU Corporation, JETRO and Marui Group will share feedback to the panellists.
The winning startup will be invited to Singapore for the international finals of the Big Idea Food Competition Asia in April 2023. The winner of the international contest will receive $200,000 USD and a spot in Big Idea Ventures’ Cohort #8 accelerator program based in Singapore.
Why you should participate
The event is an opportunity for you to discover the next generation of innovators that will shape Japan’s F&B industry! Alongside this, you will also hear keynotes and commentary from thought leaders in Japan:
The online event kicks off at 10:30 JST on October 5th. Register for free below to meet the future of Japan’s food system and be part of Asia’s biggest startup competition:
What inspired you to found CRUST?
Travinder Singh’s inspiration for founding CRUST dates back to his time in the navy. Travinder saw large amounts of bread being thrown away daily and he was reminded of the lessons his mother taught him as a youth, to treasure every grain of food you have on your plate and in your pantry.
One day, Travinder began to wonder: what if there was life for old bread beyond the bottom of the bin? The answer to his question came from his hobby.
A passionate self-taught home brewer, Travinder had learned that the first beer came about as an attempt to preserve bread.
Passion and a problem to be solved came together to form a new sense of purpose for Travinder. Soon after, in 2019, he established the CRUST Group to turn wasted bread into enjoyable beer.
Please introduce your company
The CRUST Group’s mission is to reduce global food loss by 1% by 2030. The vehicle to achieve this ambitious goal is creating delicious beverages with upcycled ingredients. They partner with food service, manufacturing and retail partners to help upcycled their food waste, such as bread and fruit peel, into unique products like CRUST Beer and CROP non-alcoholic beverages.
We began our journey in Singapore where Travinder is from, before expanding to Japan in 2021, seeing an opportunity to support companies in Japan whose food waste was being exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation.
Where do you source your surplus food in Japan?
In Singapore, our flagship product is made with food surplus supplied by Gardenia - the baked goods company. We’ve collaborated with other local bakeries and cafes to help upcycle their waste, including quinoa, coffee beans and pumpkin seed.
In Japan, CRUST started out by partnering with one of the biggest bread manufacturers to launch its own flagship bottle. For collaboration brews, CRUST partnered with two major chains Maison Kaiser, the French boulangerie, and Zipangu Curry Cafe, a hip chain of Japanese curry restaurants.
Since launching in Japan we’ve been approached by local governments and companies who want us to support them to upcycle their food waste. On the other hand, there are a lot of companies who want to donate their food waste but don’t want their name mentioned.
According to CRUST Japan, some companies want to remain anonymous because they don’t want to publicly reveal how much food they waste in case it negatively affects their image.
While fear of bad press is understandable, organizations that openly promote their support for upcycling initiatives are crucial. Especially in Japan, where companies are deeply respected by consumers, organizations play a key role in promoting sustainability and changing people’s mindsets. Candidness about food loss and waste also helps raise awareness amongst consumers that there is a problem in the first place.
Like what you’re reading?
At the moment, sourcing food surplus to make their products is one of the biggest challenges for CRUST.
People think that because we’re using surplus food to make our products, and there’s so much of it, it’s easy to get hold of. This isn’t the case. In fact, building a supply chain for surplus food and pre-processing them for food safety are key challenges for us.
We’re always on the lookout for new partners to work with.
How do you price your products?
We price our products in line with a typical craft beer. As we scale up, we will make our product more affordable. In doing so we want to spread the message that food waste and loss is part of the supply chain, it is a raw material.
According to CRUST, consumers expect upcycled products to be lower priced than regular products because they use surplus food as an ingredient. Building a supply chain for surplus food is a considerable investment, however.
Give your team some refreshing insights:
For now, CRUST view its products not only as beverages but as experiences.
Consumers who enjoy our products now are taking part in an experience. Part of drinking our products is learning about the challenge of food waste and the solution of upcycling.
What next for CRUST in Japan?
For CRUST, their priority in Japan is educating consumers to dispel
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