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Waste Not
Startups Fighting Food Waste Continue to Shape ‘Future of Snacking’

Entrepreneurial innovators are still giving the big guys a run for their money — with new products and solutions making use of food waste or eliminating it completely — and also challenging each other to create winning new products with upcycled ingredients.

Mondelēz selects winners of first ‘Future of Snacking’ Awards at Seeds & Chips Global Summit

Last week, at the Seeds & Chips annual Global Innovation Summit in Milan, Mondelēz International’s global innovation and venture hub, SnackFutures, chose two startups for their innovative snacking solutions to help support a healthier planet. 

The sustainable snacking competition was held as part of SnackFutures’ mission to create snacks that are good for people, kind to the planet and deliciously fun. Startups were asked to share solutions that could foster a more sustainable food system in areas such as food waste reduction, sustainable sourcing and packaging, alternative ingredients, circular and regenerative snack solutions and emerging technologies.

Among the six finalists, two startups were selected as the winners of the first SnackFutures “Future of Snacking” pitch competition. Joining the ranks of companies including bio-bean, Lezé the Label, Grounded Upcycling and 3Dom USA — all of which have found inventive new uses for coffee ground waste — Denmark-based Kaffe Bueno upcycles spent coffee grounds into nutritious ingredients used in foods and wellness products.

The other winner was In-Code Technologies, an emerging technology used to create edible, in-product traceability markers designed to improve food safety and increase consumer trust in the food supply.

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“Sustainability is an innovation priority for SnackFutures because it’s what consumers want. As the world’s snacking leader, we’re committed to growing our business and making our snacks the right way, with positive impact for people and planet,” said Brigette Wolf, Head of SnackFutures Innovation. “We were blown away by the commitment, creativity and passion shown by all six of the contestants and we’re excited about the opportunities they are opening up for the future of snacking.”

The contest was conducted in collaboration with Food Tank, a nonprofit think tank and leading global voice on creating a better, more sustainable food system.

“We’re happy to see SnackFutures call for more sustainable food ideas. It’s important for food companies to do their part to advance a more sustainable food system and work with startups to help accelerate ideas that can have real impact,” said Food Tank founder Danielle Nierenberg.

The two winners have the opportunity to participate in an “innovation acceleration” workshop with Mondelēz International’s experts.

“Being part of this experience was extremely valuable as it allows us to share, and get input, on our ideas for business from global companies like Mondelēz International that have the expertise and willingness to help us make a bigger impact on the world,” said Juan Media, co-founder of Kaffe Bueno.

Planetarians launches ‘Upcycled Cook-Off’

Image credit: Planetarians

Seeds & Chips also saw the launch of an “Upcycled Cook-Off” competition by food-tech startup Planetarians, which upcycles food byproducts and waste into high-protein, high-fiber ingredients that allow brands to create products that appeal to customers who want “better for you, better for the environment” foods.

Cereal Docks Group is working on new solutions to produce proteins in a way which is affordable, healthy and sustainable for the planet,” said Giacomo Fanin, Business Development at Cereal Docks — an agricultural product processing company based in Italy. “For that reason, we look closely at excellent approaches like Planetarians, in order to respond to global scenarios and environmental challenges.”

Planetarians developed a patent-pending technology that upcycles defatted sunflower seeds into a flour containing 50 percent protein than we get from beef (26 percent) and 3-5 times more than in wheat flour (10 percent); the company has highlighted its versatility and potential in recipes including a high-energy bread that contains more protein than a slice of ham, and flexitarian meatballs that offer 16 percent more protein and 55 percent more fiber than conventional meatballs.

“The work Planetarians is doing with defatted seeds exemplifies what today's best impact-driven entrepreneurs can accomplish," says Rusty Schwartz, CEO of KitchenTown.

Now, Planetarians has invited other food startups to put its upcycled flour to newer, more innovative and tastier uses by creating marketable recipes and the chance to win prizes including:

  • Free samples from Cereal Docks

  • A cooking class organized by Barilla and workshop course at CLEXTRAL pilot plant.

  • Prototyping at HERMANN'S Eatery and 3 days of R&D in KitchenTown's commercial kitchen in San Mateo, CA or Berlin, Germany.

  • One day's access to the University of Minnesota's Food Processing Center (pilot plant) and 40 hours of business development and scientific technical assistance from Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.

  • Mentorship from food business accelerators FOOD-X and TheFoodCons; features on AgFunder News and Agrifood Conversations; and access to Level 2 of the new TFF Digital Labs.

Interested startups only need to request a free sample of the upcycled ingredients, create their recipe and post a video to social media to get as many likes as possible. Winners will be selected at Seeds & Chips 2020.

Cambridge Crops coating keeps food fresh for longer

Cambridge Crops co-founder and CEO Jacques Grislain presents at FOOD-X in 2018 | Image credit: FOOD-X/YouTube

In another innovative bid to prevent food waste before it starts, Somerville, Massachusetts-based startup Cambridge Crops — a collaboration between MIT and Tufts University — has created a silk-based, odorless, flavorless, edible coating that can greatly extend the life of perishable food.

Similar in concept to the technology developed by Apeel Sciences — which replicated a natural protective coating found in many fruits and vegetables to reinforce it, thereby extending their shelf lives — Cambridge Crops’ edible biopolymer coating can postpone decay of fruits, vegetables, meat and shellfish (and even cut flowers) by reducing contact with gases and water vapor, thereby slowing down oxidation, water loss and microbial growth, and exponentially extending the foods’ edible lives — pilot tests have seen the coating extend the life of bananas 20 percent, avocados 30 percent and strawberries 50 percent.

As CEO and co-founder Jacques Grislain explained to a FOOD-X crowd in the video, the coating — comprised of 99 percent water and 1 percent silk protein — creates an invisible barrier that regulates the exchange of oxygen and moisture, slowing down microbial growth.

Founded in 2016, the company has since won everything from the 2017 Rabobank-MIT Food & Agribusiness Innovation Prize and the Tufts 100k New Ventures Competition to the 2019 AgFunder AgriFood Tech Innovation Awards — Cambridge Crops is now running paid pilots with producers.

The company recently closed a pre-seed round of $1.3 million led by MIT Engine, with participation from Closed Loop Ventures and Fink Family Foundation. While Cambridge Corps aims to make the coating a global commercial product within the next year, the team is hoping to have the greatest impact on the developing world, where 30-50 percent of food is lost, often to spoilage due to lack of refrigeration.