Published 4 years ago.
About a 7 minute read.
Image: Black Cow Vodka
“When you upcycle what’s already grown, you don’t need to grow more crops, occupy more land, consume more water. Repurposing byproducts, you can help to fight climate change; making protein affordable, you fight food insecurity for current and future generations.” — Michela Petronio, BLU1877
At Sustainable Brands, we're thrilled by the constant stream of waste-saving, value-adding innovations we discover every day. Here are three more that have recently inspired us ...
Sixth-generation, Somerset, England-based cheesemaker
Barber’s — now the oldest surviving cheddar makers
in the world, according to its website — produce over 80 tonnes of cheese each
day, made from milk from over 100 local dairy farms.
Once the milk arrives at Barber’s, though, what becomes of it differs a bit from
what happens at your average cheesemaker.
As Barber’s director Giles Barber recently told The
milk is separated into curds (which go on to become cheese) and whey — roughly
85 percent of the milk, which has been
described as “the problem child of the
As Barber explained, the Barber’s team makes use of all components of the milk —
separating any residual butterfat from the whey, to make butter; processing
the whey protein for use in infant formula products; and separating the
lactose into a concentrated serum that then goes into anaerobic
for energy creation, or is fermented and distilled to make vodka.
Barber described the process of transforming milk into Black Cow
Vodka — a company run by cousin,
Jason Barber: The whey serum is fermented into a ‘beer’ using a special yeast that
converts the milk sugar into alcohol; this ‘milk beer’ goes on to be distilled
into vodka, triple filtered and finished, then hand-bottled. The result is what
the company calls “the world’s smoothest vodka.”
As Giles Barber told The Manufacturer, Barber’s closes the loop on its cheese
production, down to the final byproduct, water — “which we use to wash down
and clean the cheesemaking areas. Once that has been done, the water is then
piped a few miles underground to a purification plant, where it is cleaned to a
standard that allows us to put it back into the water system. It is often
cleaner than the river it goes into, so it is improving the river water
L-R: ReGrained co-founders Jordan Schwartz and Daniel Kurzrock | Image credit: ReGrained
Meanwhile, San Francisco-based startup ReGrained — a finalist in SB’s
which has made a name for itself with its nutrient-dense granola bars made from
spent brewery grains — recently won one of only 4 Editor's Choice NEXTY Awards
given out at the 2019 Natural Products Expo West. The Awards were created to
recognize the most game-changing and inspiring products in the natural/organic
CPG market today; of over 3,600 exhibitors, ReGrained was selected for its
innovation, integrity and inspiration; and helping to advance the work of the
natural products industry to deliver more healthful, trusted and sustainable
products to consumers.
The award arose from a challenging discovery for ReGrained. Unfortunately, the
company’s first-to-market compostable, plant-based packaging wasn’t keeping its
SuperGrain+ bars fresh out in the field. Rather than continuing to risk
stale products, the team decided to suspend its use until a viable solution was
developed. In a public statement announcing the temporary switch, ReGrained
CEO Daniel Kurzrock acknowledged, "In our effort to prove that waste can be
designed out of the food system, we began to create waste through staling
At Expo West 2019, ReGrained shared the story on the show floor and thought
leadership stage. The company’s goal is to package in a fully certified
compostable film within a year — it is working with the OSC2 sustainable
packaging collaborative and
other industry experts to achieve this. ReGrained has open-sourced its
experience to help lead the industry to broadly adopt regenerative, plant-based
alternatives to conventional, petroleum-derived, non-renewable/degradable
At the trade show, ReGrained also showcased its latest product — a savory puffed
snack. These extruded snacks feature the brand's hero ingredient, SuperGrain+ —
a nutrient-dense, sustainable flour upcycled from rescued brewers' grain and
processed using ReGrained's patented technology — and come in five flavors:
Mexican Street Corn, Urban Garden, Texas Pit BBQ, Smoked Salt and
Pepper and Aged Cheddar. To democratize the final phase of their product
development, ReGrained invited Expo West attendees to trial the crunchy snack
and provide feedback before the official launch of the product this summer.
"We are on a mission to better align the food we eat with the planet we love,
and winning the Editors' Choice NEXTY is incredible validation that we are
making progress,” Kurzrock says. “We are honored to receive this award and proud
to be part of an industry ecosystem that cares deeply about people, planet and a
"These products represent the future of the natural products industry where
sustainability and transparency are the norm," says Jessie Shafer, content
director at New Hope Network and one of the NEXTY judges. "Our industry can
have a huge influence on how big manufacturers and mainstream buyers think about
consumer packaged goods. The winners of our NEXTY awards inspire change and
integrity in everything from ingredients to packaging."
Image credit: Planetarians
And finally, food-upcycling startup Planetarians has closed a $750,000 seed round
with the help of Barilla Group's BLU1877, Techstars,
SOSV, The Yield Lab and a group of angels.
Planetarians is an ingredient tech company, upcycling byproducts and solid food
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. Planetarians technology sterilizes, destroys anti-nutrients
and functionalizes fiber in one step. The company’s functional protein flour
made from upcycled, defatted sunflower
has three times the protein and twice the fiber of wheat flour, at the same
“Planetarians’ technology creates value for food processors who produce
byproducts and for food companies who can use our ingredients to develop
nutritious and sustainable products for consumers,” said Aleh
Manchuliantsau, Planetarians’ co-founder & CEO. “Our technology allows food
processors to sell byproducts that can now be transformed into a high protein,
high fiber flour at a premium price, a powerful incentive to repurpose
byproducts that would have otherwise been wasted or used as feed.”
High-protein, high-fiber Planetarians ingredients help food brands to convert
bakery applications into a good source of protein.
“With the help of BLU1877, we validated at Barilla’s R&D Pilot plant
high-protein pasta, bread, crackers,” adds Anastasia Tkacheva,
Planetarians co-founder & CTO. “With Amadori, we made flexitarian meatballs
The San Mateo, California-based company will use the funding to continue trials
with customers and enlarge the range of product applications from already tested
snacks, pasta, bakery and meat applications to noodles, breakfast
products, dips and purees.
In 2017, Planetarians completed feasibility tests at the University of
Minnesota and received an equity investment from TechStars Accelerator. The
following year, the company released chips made from upcycled ingredients, which
resulted in 69 percent month-to-month growth on Amazon, and showcased
ingredients at IFT and SupplySide West.
Planetarians was recently selected as one of 15 innovative startups shaping the
by FoodBytes! by Rabobank. Planetarians will present its technology at
FoodBytes! San Francisco March 28 -- where it will also sample its pasta created
with Barilla and its flexitarian meatballs created with Amadori for investors,
media and industry attendees.
“Five years ago, we were a small team of food scientists, and sourcing new
ingredients for our formulations we stumbled [onto] sunflower defatted seeds — a
byproduct of vegetable oil extraction,” Manchuliantsau recalls. “It had 35
percent protein but [was] fed to animals — but isn’t it ridiculous to feed
animals more protein than we get back from beef? Initially driven by savings for
our own product line, when we figured out the way how to upcycle those
ingredients for human consumption, we decided to pivot our company to pass the
savings we oversaw for ourselves to many other brands.”
“When you upcycle what’s already grown, you don’t need to grow more crops,
occupy more land, consume more water,” says BLU1877’s Michela Petronio.
“Repurposing byproducts, you can help to fight climate change; making protein
affordable, you fight food insecurity for current and future generations.”
Published Mar 25, 2019 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET