By certifying its flagship SuperGrain+ flour made from brewers’ spent grain, ReGrained also draws a line in the sand to protect against the dilutive and damaging effects of greenwashing, which is “a threat to every single sustainability issue, and certainly to upcycling,” ReGrained CEO Dan Kurzrock told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that since he first began talking about “upcycling” in 2013 at ReGrained’s first real sales event where “virtually nobody had heard the term before, and certainly not applied to food,” the trend of redirecting for human consumption ingredients that otherwise would go to landfills or be fed to livestock “is increasingly becoming a reason for purchase, especially by the pervasive consumer demographic of ‘label-readers.’”
Indeed, he notes a recent study conducted by Mattson found 99% of consumers said they wanted to do their part to reduce food waste, including 57% who indicated that they intend to by more Upcycled Food specifically and 54% who indicated that the Upcycled Food certification logo would increase their purchase intent – ranking higher than non-GMO or regenerative organic.
“This is remarkable considering the certification program hasn’t publicly launched yet, and less than a year ago, the term ‘Upcycled Food’ did not even have a consistent definition,” Kurzrock said.
While the uptake is notable, Kruzrock said he isn’t surprised by it.
“Personally, I see upcycling more as a reason for loyalty to a product and driver of repeat purchases,” he explained. “When shoppers’ new favorite foods are powered by certified upcycled ingredients, like ReGrained SuperGrain+, they can also feel good on a deeper level that their purchase aligns with their values.”
But, he added, the key to ensuring repeat purchase and long-term consumer interest and trust in upcycled food is to protect against greenwashing through certification by a neutral third-party that underscores sustainability claims are authentic.
What is upcycled food? “Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.” Source: Upcycled Food Association.
The Upcycled Food Association, which was established in 2019 by a group of upcycled food companies including ReGrained, made this possible by developing and publishing last year the first ever certification standard and unveiling earlier this year the first certification mark for upcycled foods.
According to Kurzrock, there are two types of certifications by UFA – one for ingredients made through a verifiable upcycled supply chain and one for products that contain a qualifying percentage of upcycled ingredients on a per unit basis or which divert a certain volume of food waste on an aggregate basis.
“To be certified, suppliers need to prove that without their solution, these foods would have otherwise not gone to human consumption. In the first version of the certification they also need to identify their sources of carbon emissions. With further improvements and improved development of and access to tools for companies to more easily measure their footprint, I hope future iterations of certification will mandate a verifiable net positive impact. Ideally directly, but if not possible, through offset programs,” he explained.
Building a platform for certified CPGs
The certification ReGrained SuperGrain+ earned also helps serve as a base for the company’s partners’ eligibility for finished goods, according to Kurzrock.
“On the finished goods side, we can offer gold standard supply so the upcycled grain-based brands can focus on scaling distribution and marketing. On the ingredient side, there is also opportunity for synergy thanks to our patented technology, which we can license. Our tech isn’t just energy efficient and food-safe, it also produces a higher quality product with superior sensory properties and functionality,” he explained.
While ReGrained is currently working on several projects under strict non-disclosure agreements, Kruzrock said the company’s ingredients and technology can help everyone from “globally brands like Barilla to restaurant groups to major retailer private label programs to regional bakeries.”
The company already has a strong track record of innovative success that also showcases the versatility of its technology and ingredients. For example, earlier this year it worked with the CPG brand Doughp to create an edible and bakeable cookie dough. The company’s limited release ‘Beast Mode Brownie’ flavor uses SuperGrain+ to offer twice the protein and six times the fiber of conventional flavors.
The San Franscisco Bay Area ice cream institution Bi-Rite also uses SuperGrain+ steeped in coconut milk to make a vegan frozen dessert that combines roasted bananas and toasted pecans.
Finally, Kurzrock said, the Northern California Panorama Bakery features ReGrained in its dough for Bavarian style pretzels, brioche and other baked goods.
Noting this is “just a small sample of what we have coming,” Kurzrock said he is “truly stoked about all the activity in the space,” as the upcycled food industry continues to grow and mature.