IFT First: Recycling Before Recycling Was ‘Cool’

CHICAGO – Barbara Mandrell released the hit song “I Was Country (When Country Wasn’t Cool)” in 1981. More than 40 years later, CEOs of companies selling certain ingredients may relate to the tune. Those companies were marketing recycled ingredients before recycling became cool, or even before the term gained recognition in the food and beverage industry with the Upcycled Certified label.

The Recycled Food Association launched the Upcycled Certified label in 2021, which defines recycled food as foods that use ingredients that would not have gone for human consumption, are purchased and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.

The recycled ingredients were promoted at several booths at IFT F, the Institute of Food Technologists’ meeting and exhibition that took place July 10-13 in Chicago. Environmental concerns such as reducing food waste may appeal to younger consumers such as millennials and Generation Z, Joanne Holleran-Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership at the International Republican Institute, told the IFT session on July 13.

“Especially for Generation Z, they are making these purchases for the first time,” she said. “They hold their shopper’s pieces, if you will, for life. So, they are super valuable.”

The origins of FruitSmart, Inc., Prosser, Wash. to 1982, a time before any consumer of Generation Z was born and back when Ms. Mandrell was often at the top of the charts for state and western. FruitSmart president Wayne Lutomsky said Northwest fruit processors often come across fresh fruit that may not meet standards for appearance quality, and may be too small or too large, meaning the fruit may end up in landfill.

FruitSmart finds fruit useful. The company was part of a pilot project with the Upcycled Food Association and has been awarded the Upcycled Certified label.

FruitSmart manufactures low-moisture whole fruit granules, pieces and powders that work in baked foods, bars, fruit and snack mixes, beverage juices, fruit preparations, and food ingredients.

FruitSmart produces apple, blueberry and cranberry fiber ingredients from the pomace by-product that comes after the fruit has been processed into juice or juice concentrates. The fiber components are air dried to less than 5% moisture and can be ground to meet customer needs. Potential applications include bakery ingredients for cakes, bread, cookies, biscuits, bars, pet food and pet treats.

Ingredients from AgriFiber Solutions, Mundelein, Illinois, are also Upcycled Certified. Jonathan Kahn, CEO, said the company’s origins go back 25 years to collaborating with the US Department of Agriculture to reduce food waste.

At its IFT booth, AgriFiber promoted its soluble fiber ingredients, made from corn bran fiber and oat bran fiber, in vegan cream cheese bars and spiced chocolate coffee drinks. Soluble corn fiber can be used as a binding agent, and soluble oat fiber is an option for fortified baked bars.

EverGrain Ingredients, a company backed by AB InBev, was in the startup division of the IFT show. The St. Louis-based company, through a proprietary process, turns the barley used in the fermentation process into protein ingredients under the EverPro brand that can be used in foods and beverages. EverPro, which is 85% protein, has been awarded the Upcycled Certified label. EverGrain promoted plant-based protein shakes and plant-based milk alternatives at IFT.

Jill Hawke, chef and culinary director of OFI, said OFI, a subsidiary of Olam International, has found ways to use garlic heads. Bulbs are the most productive parts of the garlic plant, she added, while the tops are often plowed back into farmers’ fields or used to feed animals.

“We work with farmers,” Ms. Hawke said. “What we work with is AG waste.”

OFI dehydrates garlic tops and turns them into a powder to add garlic flavor and green color to applications such as pesto, marinades, sauces and chutneys. The recycled ingredient can also be used topically on snacks. The ingredient adds fiber to pet food, and garlic has been shown to improve digestion in dogs.

OFI is working with the Upcycled Food Association to obtain an Upcycled certified label for ingredients made with garlic.

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