Published 2 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Renewal Mill's baking mixes are some of the first products to earn the Upcycled Certification. | Renewal Mill/Facebook
Upcycled Certified is a big step towards a circular economy, and a food system that acts like nature itself — a place where there is no waste — and where shoppers can participate in the best solution to climate, via the products they buy.
In 1980, the National Organic Standards Board met for the first time, and
that started the organic food revolution. Today, you can find organic products
in almost any grocery store (or even gas station) in the US; rather than
being a rarity or even a novelty, people expect to see organic products. Last
month, the Upcycled Food Association (UFA) launched Upcycled
Certified, the first
third-party-verified certification system that shows which products help to
prevent food waste. UFA wants upcycled food
to be sold in every grocery store in the country; but instead of taking 40
years, UFA wants to do it by 2030.
That’s by when the US government — as well as UN Sustainable Development Goal
12.3 — aims for us to halve food waste. If
we do, we’ll be leveraging the world’s best solution to climate
and hopefully avoid the worst possible consequences of global warming. In
eight-and-a-half years, we need to figure out what to do with 1.25 billion tons
of food, annually — half of the 2.5 billion
(roughly 40 percent) of our food that is wasted every year!
The booming growth of the upcycled food
has given hope to this lofty goal — using market forces to incentivize food
producers, manufacturers, and sellers to upcycle their otherwise wasted food
into new products. Here’s the incentive: “Yes, consumers want to buy your
A recent study published in Food and Nutrition
Sciences found that 80 percent of
consumers would buy upcycled foods; but right now, only 10 percent of consumers
know what they are. So, if we want to find upcycled food products in every
grocery store, we need to educate millions upon millions of consumers. How?
Upcycled Certified is the long-anticipated product and ingredient
certification program that helps consumers and retailers understand which
products are upcycled (the above-mentioned
study found that 97 percent of
consumers think positively about retailers who carry upcycled products). “Long
anticipated” might be a bit of an exaggeration — similar certification systems
have taken years to create. UFA employed a huge volunteer network and got it
done in 18
Misadventure Vodka, Lost and Found Distillery's spirit made from excess baked goods, is another early recipient of the Upcycled Certification. | Image credit: Misadventure Vodka/Facebook
Soon, the first Upcycled Certified products will be found on grocery store
shelves, bearing the Upcycled Certified mark — a logo that was developed pro
bono, with volunteer academics providing multiple rounds of consumer research.
Ultimately, the logo estimated to increase “intent to buy” a given product for
51 percent of consumers — higher than the Regenerative
Organic logo developed by Patagonia and Dr.
Nothing against regenerative organic, really; it’s just that the upcycled
movement seems to have struck a unique chord with consumers. Apparently, 95
percent of consumers want to do their part to prevent food waste, according to a
Further up the supply chain, ingredient wholesalers will soon start to feature
Upcycled Certified ingredients as a searchable criterion in their catalogs —
enabling businesses to easily use more sustainable ingredients during product
“Using an upcycled ingredient is one of the easiest and most effective ways to
make a product more sustainable,” said Julia Collins, CEO of Planet
FWD, which helps food companies reduce the
environmental impact of their products.
It’s true. And with the upcycled industry accelerating so quickly right now, I
expect this will be a movement that will ultimately change entire food supply
chains. Media coverage of upcycled food increased 128 percent this
and UFA Members are reporting
160 percent sales growth this year (according to UFA Membership data). And by
the end of 2021, we aim to see several hundred Upcycled Certified products and
ingredients on the market.
Thanks to generous support from philanthropic supporters, UFA will be launching
a video series aimed educating consumers about upcycled food products; and we’re
working with retailers to create upcycled promotions and “end caps” in store.
It’s all in an effort to try to double the growth rate of the upcycled food
industry to at least 10 percent annually for the next 10 years. That means there
is a huge opportunity for investors, too. A growing number of upcycled food
companies have had successful investment funding
Maybe you’re like me and thinking, “This will all happen because of a measly
logo?” Well, it’s more than just a logo. By creating a uniform system for
determining which products and ingredients meet the rigorous Upcycled
Certification Standard, UFA is also developing a system of tracking the impact
of a given upcycled product, company, or the entire industry in aggregate. Soon,
upcycled products will be able to tout claims such as, “For every unit you buy,
you save [X pounds of food waste and CO2 emissions].”
But Upcycled Certified is more than a tracking system — it’s the banner for one
of those rare instances where the interests of business and the environment
overlap. It’s a big step towards a circular economy, and a food system that acts
like nature itself; a place where there is no waste, and all inputs are
automatically elevated to their highest and best use. And where everyday
shoppers can participate in the best solution to global warming via the products
Published Jul 30, 2021 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Turner Wyatt is an award-winning social entrepreneur focused on reducing food waste. He is co-founder and CEO of the Upcycled Food Association, as well as the co-founder and former Executive Director of Denver Food Rescue. In 2015, he was appointed by the Mayor of Denver to serve on the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council, and also serves as Board President of Fresh Food Connect.