Soymilk and tofu pulp byproduct could be the next ‘it’ ingredient, says Renewal Mill

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Renewal Mill – a startup founded by two Yale grads that works with food manufacturers to upcycle byproducts from food processing to create value-added ingredients and food items – is tackling the mounting issue of US food waste, specifically the 6 million lbs of fiber and protein byproduct.

The startup was awarded the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge earlier this month taking home a $25,000 check that will go towards scaling its business.

Roughly, $218bn is spent per year on growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is wasted, according to Renewal Mill, which has seen an uptick in consumer awareness and increased interest in food and beverage products that are doing something to resolve the issue.

“There have been a few drivers in terms of how food waste has become such a big problem in our economy and in our food system today. I would say the biggest has been the shift that’s taken place over the last 100 years in localized sources of food production to more centralized sources of food products,”Renewal Mill​ co-founder Sumit Kadakia told FoodNavigator-USA at the IFT 2018 annual meeting and expo in Chicago.

“That shift has been really great for us as society to produce much greater volumes of food but in doing so, we sacrificed efficiency, and the reason we were able to do that is because there wasn’t really a cost that was put on wasting food. Food was made to be really cheap and there weren’t​ [state or] federal regulations against organic waste disposal.”

Common food byproducts typically cast aside are almond meal (a byproduct from almond milk that can be dried and milled into a fine almond flour that is naturally gluten free), pomace (grape byproduct commonly used to make brandy, grappa, and grapeseed oil), and pistachio shells that can be used to smoke BBQ meats.

“We take that really nutritious, really high quality, often organic material and turn that into beautiful end products for consumers,”​ Kadakia said.

From the judge's chair

Kadakia and his team beat out 65 applicants from around the globe that had applied for the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge and had to pitch the company vision to a panel of judges that included celebrity Shark Tank investor Daymond John.

PREBrands

Nicole Schumacher, chief marketing officer, PRE Brands, and one of the judges told us that Renewal Mill's mission stood out because of its clearly defined business plan.

“I think what Sumit had was having a point of difference and I think they also had a really strong solid plan from start to finish,”​ Schumacher said.

“Understanding the entire business plan is not always fully thought through and I think he and his team have done a really great job at putting together a scalable opportunity that makes a lot of sense.”

Kadakia told the judges that in five years, 70% of its sales will come from sales of its ingredients including a partnership with pea protein dairy alternative brand Ripple Foods to capture split pea starch. The start-up expects to make $130,000 in revenue this year and be profitable (at about $2–$4m in revenue) in about two years.

What comes next?

The company’s core focus right now is okara, the pulpy byproduct of soy milk production, used in its line of finished CPG products which includes chocolate chip cookies and packaged organic okara flour.

“One of the most interesting things about how to use a lot of this food is that a lot of the actual use cases were traditional use cases from before our food system became industrialized,”​ Kadakia said.

Okara, for instance, has a history of usage in Japan and East Asia when people used to make soy milk at home. The pulpy byproduct has a texture similar to cheese curds and is virtually flavorless as well as being low in fat and high in fiber and protein.

“What we’re doing is we’re actually taking that and transferring that into a more Western context, which is where we think it actually shines -- in baked goods and other grain-based products such as pastas and pancakes.”

Using the $25,000 investment from the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge as well as funding from other sources, Renewal Mill plans to increase production of okara and bring it to a larger scale market.

“We’ve already had a lot of penetration in Northern California and what we’re most excited about is bringing that to our first largescale pilot in Appalachia [West Virginia],”​ Kadakia said.

“There is a tremendous amount of consumer acceptance for these kinds of new ingredients that are being packaged into products in a thoughtful, design forward way.”

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