The trick, however, is finding the right partner, who shares the same mission but offers a strategic, and needed skill set, according Dan Kurzrock, the co-founder and chief grain officer for the upcycled ingredient and snack company ReGrained.
“We are big believers that if we are going to fix this food system and, you know, protect the planet that we live on, that we can’t do it alone and that we should work with others,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.
One of ReGrained's first partners was the US Department of Agriculture, which helped the startup create a patent-pending technology to dry and process spent grains from brewers, which is nutritious, but spoils quickly. The result is the company’s SuperGrain+ flour that is the base for ReGrained’s nutrition bars and upcoming line of salty snacks.
Even as ReGrained expands its distribution and portfolio of products using the flour, Kurzrock said his company alone could not use enough upcycled spent grain to significantly redirect what would be food waste. As such, he said, the company knew it needed another partner to help it scale and get the word out to other CPG companies about the benefits of its SuperGrain+ flour.
One of these partners is Griffith Foods, a product development company that ReGrained met while participating in the global innovation accelerator Terra.
Through Terra, which Kurzrock described as a dating app for food and beverage businesses, ReGrained was paired with Griffith Foods for a three to four month pilot program that turned into a long-term partnership.
“It is really exciting for us, because … if I were just to focus on the brand, I could be a very successful brand with $1m in revenue,” but “I would still be only able to upcycle the grain from one or two maybe three breweries. And so if we really want to make an impact on the food system and create a more circular food system, working with partners like Griffith to get into the supply chains of large established food companies and help them create a new category that makes a difference is really how we take this thing to the next level and make a real impact,” Kurzrock said.
He added that he sees ReGrained a “tugboat” that can help larger companies navigate uncharted waters and produce products that are better for the planet and people.
What to look for in a partner
With this in mind, Kurzrock says entrepreneurs need to evaluate potential partnerships carefully – looking not only at what each player can contribute but at whether their core values align.
“In the case of Griffith … what we were looking for was not just that strategic alignment of ‘oh, can this company help take this thing to the next level and become a really ubiquitous ingredient in the industry, but also why are they doing it? Are they doing it for the right reasons? Are we aligned from a purpose standpoint?” he said.
With help from its partners, Regrained hopes to expand its reach – and impact – significantly in the coming years.
“This year we are entering phase 2 as a business. We are … going to do our first ingredient sales. So we are actually building our first re-grainery, where we are scaling up the process we developed with the USDA … to the point where this year we are actually going to upcycle a million pounds of food,” Kurzrock said.
He added that ReGrained plans on launching its own new products, as well as products developed in collaboration with others. It also recently unveiled a rebrand that it hopes will spur sales of its bars and help build consumer awareness around upcycling.