Published 2 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: ReGrained recently released an upcycled pasta | ReGrained/Facebook
We spoke with ReGrained co-founder Dan Kurzrock to learn more about the upcycling process, the role such technology can play in helping to fix the food
system, and why brand collaboration is so important when it comes to scale.
Dan Kurzrock is co-founder and Chief Grain Officer at
ReGrained — a food tech startup that upcycles
byproducts such as spent brewers’ grain into nutritious food ingredients and
products. The mission of the company — a finalist in Sustainable Brands’
that has continued to scale its
ever since — is to better align the food people eat with the planet through
valuing and utilizing resources that might have otherwise gone to waste.
We spoke with Kurzrock ahead of his upcoming talk at SB’21 San
Diego to learn
more about the upcycling process, the role such technology can play in helping
to fix the food system, and why brand collaboration is so important when it
comes to scale.
Dan Kurzrock: Upcycling is inherently an act of creation. It’s all about
unlocking latent value in products that would typically be considered waste and
putting these resources to best use. Doing this effectively requires a reframing
of the status quo, a shift in perspective about what is possible. This is where
the creativity comes in. Instead of waste being an unfortunate problem or the
cost of doing business, upcycling can transform it into an opportunity.
DK: The food system is broken for many reasons, one of which is that we
waste too much edible food. Analyses range between 30-40 percent globally, and
these metrics generally exclude or underestimate byproducts. We vastly
undervalue the virgin resources required to produce food. So, when we waste
food, we’re also wasting the resources it took to grow, harvest, process and
distribute food. If we are going to fix our broken food
beginning to value the natural resources required to produce it is a good place
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DK: Our patented
technology can be understood
as a modern take on value-added processing. If you think about pickling,
canning, preserves — those techniques were developed to extend the shelf-life of
a crop. Our technology also does that; it is just harvested from breweries
instead of the field. Without us, the food would go to lower uses such as animal
feed, compost or landfill. Our technology stabilizes the soaked grains to keep
them food-safe. The output is a dry, stable material that can be stored at room
DK: As an ingredient and development partner, we upcycle at scale by
actively collaborating with leading food brands through our upcycled food lab.
These ‘Powered by ReGrained’ projects span products in every aisle of the
grocery store. Together, we look at opportunities to incorporate new ingredients
and techniques that make authentic impact into existing supply chains. Our lab
helps create products supported by health and environmental claims quickly from
concept to market, with flexible services tailored to the needs and capabilities
of our partners. For some we offer full cycle support; others simply purchase
DK: The pasta category is indeed huge, and Semolina Artisanal Pasta makes
some of the best-tasting products around. It is a truly a great product. But we
see every innovation project as a potential gamechanger. Earlier this year, we
worked with a brand called Doughp to create a ‘first
of its kind’ upcycled cookie dough. We’re doing the same across categories and
applications — even plant-based protein, ice
DK: We have seen substantive progress in the upcycled food
category. Earlier this year, Whole Foods declared upcycled food a Top 10 trend in 2021. And in a recent study conducted by Mattson, 57 percent of consumers indicated that they intend to buy more upcycled food. I think this speaks
volumes to the consumer awareness and industry demand for upcycled foods.
DK: One of our first objectives was to officially define what exactly
‘upcycled foods’ are. That definition then set the stage for the development of
a third-party, certifiable standard. This June, open enrollment for the standard
began. Officially certified upcycled ingredients and
are now a thing, and we will start seeing the seal on shelves in every aisle of
the grocery store from here. ReGrained is proud to be the first flour ingredient
made from brewer’s grain in the world to be certified by the Association.
DK: Last year, we upcycled about half a million pounds of brewers’ grain.
That is literally tons, but a mere sliver of the billions of pounds of potential
supply. We have cracked the code on the supply side and technology. What is key
from here to scale the impact is growing demand. We need more companies
producing upcycled food products, and more consumers learning about the
Published Sep 28, 2021 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Maxine Perella is an environmental journalist working in the field of corporate sustainability, circular economy and resource risk.