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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Circular, Regenerative Innovations Advance in Big Food Redesign Challenge

Cactus cookies, banana-peel snacks, wrinkled-pea pasta are contenders in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Challenge for companies to design new products — or redesign existing ones — using circular principles that help address climate change and regenerate nature.

A new generation of food products designed to increase circularity and regenerate the planet are one step closer to reaching supermarket shelves after being invited to the next stage of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Big Food Redesign Challenge.

Pasta made from wrinkled peas, a snack using banana peel, and both cookies and juice produced from cacti are among the innovative concepts received from companies ranging from startups to household names including Danone and Nestlé.

The Challenge, launched last year by the Foundation in partnership with the Sustainable Food Trust, tasked participants to design new products — or redesign existing ones — using circular-economy principles that help nature to thrive and address climate change.

From a total of 400 applications received worldwide — including from Africa, Europe, Latin America, the UK and US — more than 160 products are now being supported in developing their first designs.

As selected products enter the production phase of the Challenge, the Foundation is calling on retailers to join its partners — leading British supermarket Waitrose and major retail group Grupo Carrefour Brasil — in showcasing food items as early as this year.

“Our current food system is a key driver of biodiversity loss and accounts for a third of global greenhouse gases — we can, and must, redesign our food to regenerate nature and tackle some of the most pressing global issues facing us today,” asserts Beth Mander, Food Program Manager at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “It’s encouraging to see such a huge appetite by businesses to rise to the challenge of helping to reshape how we design food for the future. With such an innovative range of product ideas, we hope they will become everyday items on shopping lists.

“This is an exciting time for more retailers to get involved and be among the first in the world to offer their customers unique access to food choices which help preserve and restore our planet for future generations.”

Advancing innovations

Among the UK innovators joining the next phase of the Challenge are Hodmedod’s — whose selection of pasta, soups and dahl is sourced from a type of broad bean and other diverse, arable crops grown with regenerative practices that help build soil health; Toast Brewing — which upcycles surplus loaves of bread into beer and recently received a major cash infusion from Heineken; luxury London retailer Fortnum & Mason’s in-house distilled Amalthea Dry Gin — which has diversified its source crop by swapping grains with homegrown apples; and Old Farmhouse Brewery’s beer made from kelp locally sourced from Wales’ first community-owned regenerative ocean farm.

Danone’s entry is a new yogurt range for the UK & Ireland markets made from over 90 percent regeneratively farmed milk. Another better-dairy entry is from Golden Hooves, a UK-based subsidiary of the regenerative First Milk cooperative, whose butter and cheese contain ingredients sourced from farmers that are all committed to regenerative practices.

Kenya-based Dunia Bora advances to the next phase of the Challenge with its use of cacti — the company is farming what is traditionally considered an invasive plant, using regenerative practices in the country’s arid and semi-arid regions, and turning it into both a vegan leather and an ingredient in cookies and juice.

Submissions from US-based companies include Wildway — which uses both banana and its peel in its Grain-Free Granola to increase its nutritional value and reduce waste; and a plant-based take on traditional jerky by 4 Fungi’s Regenerative made from mushrooms; Upcycled Foods Inc (aka Regrained), which upcycles byproducts such as spent brewers’ grain into nutritious food ingredients; and snacks from GoodSam Foods, made with regeneratively farmed cocoa from Colombia.

The Foundation launched the Big Food Redesign Challenge with support from funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and awarded through the Dream Fund, the Schmidt Family Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Next phase: Retail

The next phase of the Challenge will involve bringing products to market with the help of retailers. Retailers are invited to find out how they can get involved in stocking nature-positive products by contacting [email protected].