Since the Upcycled Trade Association was founded in 2019 it has grown from nine companies to include 260 companies with 454 certified produces and ingredients in the market – helping to drive overall growth to expected $80b by 2032, the trade group’s CEO Angie Crone told FoodNavigator-USA.
She attributed this fast growth in part to the group’s clear definition of upcycled food and its certification program, both of which protect against greenwashing and allegations of misleading consumers to ensure future stability in the marketplace.
She explained that upcycled food is defined as ingredients that would have otherwise be wasted – such as going to the landfill or composted or used as animal feed – but are now being redirected for human consumption through a verified supply chain.
Likewise, she explained, “the Upcycled Certified certification … is the first and only third-party certification for upcycled products, and it is a powerful tool to connect your buyers as well as your consumers to what you’re doing in the supply chain to have a positive impact.”
Educating and reassuring consumers are keys to long-term growth
She added the certification and clear definition also offer assurance to consumers who want to support products that are better for them and the planet but also who are increasingly skeptical of green claims.
“We know that consumers more than ever have a distrust of company claims, and so it is very important that it’s third party verified. There’s a lot of integrity in that process, and there are clear requirements,” she added.
The certification also is helping the group raise consumer awareness of upcycled food from less than 10% when the trade group launched to now upwards of 40% of mainstream consumers and 60% of natural shoppers, Crone said.
“It is really impressive growth from where we started to where we are now,” she said. But, she added, “there’s still work to do.”
The trade group is focused on consumer education and working with retailer and brands to communicate the value of upcycled foods and to better highlight them at retail.
For example, Crone said, the association works with retailers to “get really creative, just like the products they are carrying,” such as through in-store signage, end-caps and embedding the values of the certification into their sourcing standards.
For brands, the group provides tools to educate consumers, such as a partnership with PlanetFWD, which can help companies assess their carbon footprint and find ways to reduce their impact.
Looking forward, Crone said she expects to see more consumer education in the coming year as well as a targeted effort to create additional opportunities through the US Farm Bill, which is up for reauthorization.