Turning trash into cash: Upcycling can no longer be ignored
A conversation with Jérôme Dupont, founder of XSAMPLY
Hey there, fellow inhabitants of earth. 🌏
Have you ever considered that “upcycled” is just an upcycled term for waste stream valorization? WSV doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? “Upcycled” sounds hip; it’s got rizz, as the kids say. It’s got a better publicist.😎
These are the important issues that keep me up at night.
Sustainability is an umbrella term for a lot of different bits and bobs that ultimately serve one goal – saving the planet. Upcycling has rapidly emerged as one of the many solutions (and terms) to get there. At this point, it’s become pretty clear to everyone that sustainability can no longer be ignored. ♻️⌛
And GourmetPro expert and founder of XSAMPLY, Jérôme Dupont, is actually doing something about this (instead of making dumb jokes like me). He talked to me about how food and drink companies can leverage the power of upcycling to reduce the amount of food waste generated while also creating additional revenue streams. 💸💸
📰 In The News: Baking salts, collagen breaks out of the beauty mold, an oily route to sustainability, and more…
📱Trending with Gen Z: Chips and caviar
🚀 Innovation Deep Dive: Jérôme Dupont sheds light on the economic and environmental benefits of food upcycling
📰 In The News
A curation of our favorite F&B innovation stories from the week. Can be read in less than a 🧻 break.
Salt brands would like us very much not to take salt with a pinch of… errr… salt. 🧂And that explains all the different types of NaCl available now. To complicate your already insert-salty-phrase-of-choice-here life even more, Diamond Crystal has launched a new product called “Baking Salt”, which “dissolves, mixes, and blends faster and more evenly into batters and doughs than traditional table salt.”
Turns out collagen may no longer be just for good looks anymore. New studies are suggesting that collagen’s role may be evolving from beauty booster to sports nutrition superhero. Collagen peptide use is being linked to faster post-workout and post-injury recovery for athletes. 💪🏃🚴
US fast casual restaurant chain Shake Shack is taking an interesting route to more sustainable burgers and fries. 🍟🍔The company is looking to replace its current cooking oil with the more eco-friendly Zero Acre Farms oil, and is trialing this in a couple of their outlets. This oil is made from rain-fed sugarcane plants.
Jean Claude Van Damme is launching an Irish whiskey brand called Old Oak. IMHO, it’s a missed opportunity to not call the brand “Jean Claude Van Dram”. Celebs tying up with booze brands are a dime a dozen, I know, but I just needed to get this one out of my system.
📱Trending With Gen-Z
What social media is telling us about Gen-Z’s cravings! Can be enjoyed during an 🛗 ride.
Chip meets chic
TikTok appears to be increasingly taking hold of product innovation. Caviar became a hack to bougie up your Pringles earlier this year, and now there are combos ready to be bought.
Kellogg’s chips brand and The Caviar Company have teamed up to launch this rather opulent limited edition range called the Crisps and Caviar Collection. ✨
The following kit has three flavors of Pringles – Pringles Original, Sour Cream and Onion, and BBQ – and the White Sturgeon Caviar and Smoked Trout Roe (one ounce each). All yours for just US$140!
🚀 Innovation Deep Dive: Upcycling can help turn waste into value
Weekly deep dive into an F&B trend. Can be read in less than a 🚋 ride.
The food ecosystem is a pretty big contributor to the world’s carbon footprint. Across the supply chain, right from production all the way to post-consumption, it accounts for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions every year globally. And food waste alone is responsible for about half of these emissions.
Let’s be honest, it’s everyone’s responsibility to cut down food waste, but food and drink companies are uniquely positioned to do this at scale. It’s not easy, but it is vital. In this regard, upcycling byproducts of food processing is not really a new concept but it is picking up a lot of steam among consumers.
And for companies, there’s a LOT of revenue to be made. The upcycled food market was worth US$52 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach a whopping US$83.26 billion by 2032.
Read on for Jérôme’s insights into how to leverage this incredible opportunity and what it takes to incorporate upcycling into the food production process.
GourmetPro: Could you explain what you mean by "byproducts" in the context of the food industry and its connection to upcycling?
Jérôme Dupont: By "byproducts," I refer to the secondary products that result from the main food processing process, which can also be valorized or put to use.
Let me give you an example. In the dairy industry, butter (which can have a strong and rancid smell) is standardized and made neutral. The process involves several steps to maintain the butter's aromatic neutrality. This is done because in Europe and North America, consumers prefer butter to be odorless and tasteless.
The byproduct that is derived from this standardization process is a small amount of a concentrated fat residue that contains the flavor. I was working for a butter producer and they had a significant amount of this byproduct. It turned out that a flavor house was interested in buying this side-product because it was a very effective contributor to their formulations. Indeed, the base note in fragrances is difficult to obtain and this butter byproduct was effective in doing so as it contains certain unique and natural molecules that are able to do so.
Over time, the flavor house wanted more quantities of the byproduct and the client found that other customers were also interested in it. The flavor market started to ask for higher purity and quality of the product, which the butter company was able to deliver, increasing dramatically the end-price of the byproduct to ten times the main product.
GP: Upcycling has been gaining importance across different industries today. What are some of the benefits of upcycling for the food industry?
Jérôme: The food industry generates quite a lot of waste during the production and manufacturing process. Often, this waste is just discarded, adding to overall food waste globally. But this waste byproduct from most food processing contains useful compounds, molecules, or nutrients that can be used in other products.
So upcycling can be incredibly beneficial not just as a source for these useful ingredients, but also can play a significant role in reducing the waste generated during food processing.
As we saw with the butter example, utilizing the waste stream of food processing doesn’t have to be restricted to the food industry alone. As a result, upcycling has the potential to become an alternative revenue stream for companies.
GP: Upcycling is still in its early stages in the food industry. What are some of the challenges to its growth?
Jérôme: Upcycling has a lot of benefits, but there is currently not a lot of awareness of how to incorporate it. The ingredients need to be better understood by the food industry as well as the link between the ingredients and final users of the byproducts. The problem is that there is a black box in between and food companies may not know why or how or by whom the byproduct will be used. This means that they may not also understand the importance of purifying the product - for instance, it may need to be made metal-free or free of specific compounds for a dedicated market.
This is not the traditional food companies’ business. Until there is an awareness of the final customer for the byproduct and that environment, the food company may not be able to properly understand, and therefore improve the byproduct or reformulate it to address new markets.
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GP: So then, how does the food industry identify potential value streams and utilize such byproducts effectively?
Jérôme: The more knowledge companies have about the ingredients they use, the earlier in the manufacturing value chain can they account for refining and improving the quality of the byproducts.
For example, the seafood industry produces a lot of discards. Those effluents are rich in nutrients, amino acids, and flavors and they are widely used in soups and broths and so on. But if you wait to process, separate the flesh, and then load the carcasses onto a truck to ship elsewhere to treat, it might take a lot of time and the flavor of the carcasses will go off. So you need to incorporate the effluents treatment process in the same site as the flesh processing.
But to do this, you have to know what the final goal of utilizing the discards is – that the primary business is the flesh and the carcasses can be the byproduct for valorization. Perhaps the valorization can even be done by another player who has more experience. And if the two parties work to that end at the same time, they can valorize the whole seafood immediately and faster.
This means knowing the entire value chain, recognizing the uses of the different processing streams and then planning infrastructure around them for efficient use.
To identify and utilize byproducts efficiently there needs to be collaboration among the food industry, research centers, and specialized companies. It's also essential to keep an eye on new opportunities and innovations. For instance, you might consider collaborations with other companies to invest in common equipment for byproduct treatment or outsourcing certain processes to specialists.
It is easier for new factories or industries to develop these requirements right at the beginning. They can think of their side streams, who might use the byproducts, what kind of added value is needed, and who would be best placed to provide the value. Thinking about these factors is becoming more important as it will ultimately benefit the company. This can even lead to valuable innovation.
GP: Incorporating side stream treatment infrastructure might be slightly easier for new factories or companies. What challenges do established companies face when transitioning to utilize their existing plants for byproduct valorization, especially since that may not be their core specialty? What are the solutions?
Jérôme: Established companies may face challenges in terms of investment and infrastructure adaptation.
Finding solutions and incorporating new processes can be expensive and time-consuming, and all the while you continue to add to the waste generation.
But at least now you know there is a problem and this could result in simple, immediate solutions. For example, if a potato chips company wants to reduce the amount of peel waste they generate, they could consider just making chips with the peels, after getting consumer buy-in.
Open innovation and collaboration with specialists can also really help here. People just need to talk to other people to find common solutions.
Companies can work with their peers, universities, and even valorization centers to address these challenges.
There are also a number of associations and research centers that can help you understand how to find side stream opportunities.
For some projects, I have reached out to university professors who specialize in valorization to find solutions. They may not be able to tell you specifics such as yield or suppliers or so on, but they can give you good ideas of valorization. And this is a good starting point.
Another option is to find someone who can take care of valorizing the waste for you. This could result in companies evolving from producing raw materials to a product with greater added value.
GP: Investment in upcycling processes is perhaps something that companies are worried about. What benefits would they see in the long run by investing in waste stream valorization?
Jérôme: This kind of investment is always a key concern for companies. But there is another growing concern globally that will make this a must – environmental sustainability. Consumer demand for sustainable and environmentally friendly products is growing. Companies that embrace these changes not only meet consumer expectations but also reduce environmental risks. And this shift is actually pushing companies to invest in byproduct valorization and sustainable practices that save or reuse resources.
Want to leverage Jérôme’s expertise for your own product innovation?
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