By Alvaro Pena, Area Sales Manager BTSA
Let’s face it, we are at an important crossroads. It is no secret that overconsumption of the earth’s resources (along with the amount of waste produced) is having a detrimental impact on our planet. In addition, climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss and the persistence of hunger and malnutrition have shown us that it is time for all of us to build a more resilient system.
A circular economy is a system that addresses all the above-mentioned global challenges and, while there is still much to be done, compared to a linear take-make-dispose system, it is very resilient. The circular economy framework translates into the food industry as reducing food loss and waste, rethinking new production and consumption channels, extending the shelf life of products, and recovering value from food loss and waste.
A concept also related to circularity is upcycling. Generally speaking, upcycling is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials or discarded objects into new added-value products. Upcycling from natural sources is experiencing great momentum presently and while this concept also faces several challenges and barriers for its implementation, end-customer acceptance is growing. The reasons for preferring upcycled products included environmental benefits and encourages creativity and innovation, with many people wanting to take a role in helping to reduce food waste by doing their bit for Mother Nature.
Hopefully one day, every product will be made mostly or even exclusively from upcycled materials – from ingredients to packaging but this full implementation of upcycling in the global economy will require huge structural changes in institutions, business models and the development of ad-hoc processes, as well as the involvement of many stakeholders, including business, policymakers, customers, and scientists. All of these will also require heavy investments and will take a long time. However, the possibilities of using upcycled ingredients keep growing as technical innovation develops, facilitating the reinsertion of both discarded and wasted food materials in the production of natural and organic products. Having said that, we should all be able to understand upcycling not only as a concept applicable to whole products, but also as ingredients that are added in small doses in final products too. For example, turning a whole fruit into a dried fruit snacks may seem an obvious way to upcycle a product, but not always all options are that straightforward. Nowadays there are simpler, faster, and cheaper ways to start on this “concerned about the environment” path as there is a wide range of upcycled ingredients with a higher purpose that are being used to develop a growing number of options.
Upcycled food is all about elevating food to its highest and best use. While upcycled foods are for human consumption, upcycled ingredients could also be included in cosmetics, nutraceutical, animal feed, pet food and more. The increasing consumer demand for more sustainable products and the development of portfolios of plant-based ingredients obtained from food waste material apt for their use in a variety of formulations are a perfect match to bring even more upcycled options on our shelves.
While the obvious is to connect food waste with upcycled food for feeding people only, this brilliant solution has so much more to offer. In this way, upcycled beauty & personal care ingredients can be used as alternatives to a conventional ingredient list, which are often harmful to the environment and toxic to the human body. Some examples of these alternatives could be based on edible oils waste, citrus extracts (particularly orange and lemon peals), coffee or cacao beans waste.
In addition, humans are not the only consumers in the food chain and if we are going to feed a growing population of people, we must first do a better job at preventing food waste and using upcycled ingredients in the pet & feed food preparation and preservation will be also very important from now on.
At BTSA, we specialize in upcycling plant-based by-products of manufacturing processes to create truly unique, natural & sustainable ingredients such as antioxidants and vitamin E. We will continue to strengthen the nexus of better-for-you and better-for-the planet by promoting our portfolio and offering forward-thinking brands an opportunity to create products that make better use of the precious resources around us without compromising quality or efficacy.
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