7 innovative food brands rethinking sustainability by upcycling snacks
These brands turn food waste into tasty snacks and beverages
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As a chef and restaurateur in Philadelphia, I'm accustomed to ordering whole foods in bulk to be broken down and processed. I was proud to run a kitchen at my former restaurant that was almost no-waste. Salmon would come in and my cooks would dissect it to make its flesh into poke bowls, its skin into crispy fish skin snacks, and its head into flavoring for soup or curry. Any bits that wouldn’t make it into these items would be made into treats for my very spoiled chihuahua.
At home, my approach to food is somewhat different. I buy foods in smaller quantities as I’m only feeding myself, my husband, and my chihuahua. I’ll purchase packaged items like baby carrots and, like many consumers, forget about the carrot pieces that are trimmed out to make these minis. As consumers, we purchase so many food products without thinking about their byproducts, which are often good, nutritious, and when unconsumed, add to a mountain of wasted food.
Here are seven food brands committed to reducing food waste and creating a more sustainable food system by upcycling food waste into tasty snacks, beverages and more.
1. Misfits Market
Misfits launched in 2018 with the mission of finding inefficiencies in the food system and solving them. The company's goal was to target the third of the produce in the U.S. that never gets harvested due to aesthetic standards set by grocery stores, and sell it to consumers who prioritize sustainable food.
Working toward preventing food waste goes hand in hand with making healthy food available at affordable prices. The Misfits model has changed since its original CSA-style boxes, and now you can order organic produce and pantry items (plus wine bundles) à la carte.
When I ordered from Misfits, my box burst a lot of my preconceived notions of what I was buying and buying into. I was surprised to find that everything was in near-perfect condition. The radishes all looked like radishes and the mangoes weren't at all overripe.
There’s an added wonderful notion of discovery when it comes to getting Misfits’ pantry items. I ordered utterly delicious almond oat bars and that parmesan popcorn, which I now am in love with and might not have noticed on a supermarket shelf.
2. Pulp Pantry Pulp Chips
I am obsessed with Pulp Pantry's Pulp Chips. They're made using the fiber leftover from juicing fruits and vegetables, making them naturally gluten-free and vegan. The pulp of cold-pressed juice contains 95% of the fiber of whole veggies and is typically discarded or composted.
The faint heat and hint of lime in the Jalapeño Lime Pulp Chips render them hopelessly addictive and the BBQ and Sea Salt flavors are also fantastic. Pulp Pantry's chips are the kind of chips that make you straighten out the bag at the end, tilt your head back and tip the crumbs straight into your mouth.
3. Reveal Avocado Seed Brew
Reveal by Hidden Gems is a beverage that tastes like a mild tea or tisane and is brewed from avocado pits. This is a new food product and the brainchild of two food scientists who studied at Drexel University.
Hidden Gems founders Sheetal Bahirat and Zuri Masud set out to prove avocado pits could be consumed as a tea, after they had a brainwave while making guacamole one day. They realized that each fruit yielded more seed and skin than the tender green stuff we all love to eat.
Reveal now comes in three unexpected and unique flavor combinations—Grapefruit Lavender, Mango Ginger and Rose Mint—that are all sweetened with monk fruit. They also boast three times as much antioxidant power as green tea. My favorite way to drink Reveal is chilled, with a splash of seltzer, giving me a mocktail that tastes rather like kombucha.
4. Take Two Barley Milk
Just as Hidden Gems taught me that avocado seeds could be transformed into tea, Take Two showed me that barley can be milked. Rejuvenated barley is the main ingredient in Take Two, which comes in a range of flavors (Original, Unsweetened, Chocolate, and Vanilla). Spent barley is the fiber and protein byproduct of brewing beer and billions of pounds are produced each year. Though some of it is fed to livestock, much goes to waste.
Take Two’s mission is to transform more of that spent barley into nutritious, plant-based food for humans. As with many other plant-based milks on the market, rejuvenated barley is combined with a number of other ingredients to make it milk-like, including coconut cream, pea protein, and sea salt. Take Two has a satisfying thickness and creaminess to its texture that makes it comparable to my favorite oat milk.
It performs like traditional dairy, so it can be foamed for your coffee beverage of choice, and it also has a shelf-life (and price) similar to that of traditional dairy. The Chocolate Take Two tastes like a protein shake to me and both the Original and Vanilla flavors taste uncannily like Werther’s Originals. (This is a very good thing.)
5. Philabundance Abundantly Good Cheese
Non-profit Philabundance has long had the focus of providing emergency food in nine Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties, but in more recent years, it has expanded its mission into far more categories. Most deliciously, into taking surplus farm products like milk and upcycling them, thus extending their shelf life and creating products that give back to the community. 100% of sales go directly to the region’s largest hunger relief organization.
Pennsylvania is the nation’s second largest dairy-producing state, so this is a significant amount of potentially wasted milk—in 2020 alone, this was 12 tankers worth of milk. Philabundance’s Abundantly Good cheese is produced by Lancaster dairy farmers, whose industry has been suffering, and is available via Philadelphia-based cheese shop Di Bruno Bros. for nationwide shipping.
Abundantly Good’s Lancaster Cheddar is just that: really, really good. It's perfect for melting into a grilled cheese sandwich or diced onto a cheese board, paired with Pulp Chips and a spoonful of Abokichi Okazu. Abundantly Good’s raw milk, unpasteurized cheeses include Lancaster Cheddar, Smoked Colby, Jalapeño Colby, Smoked Cheddar and Horseradish Cheddar.
6. Seconds Carrot Crackers
I expected Seconds Carrot Crackers to taste like, well, carrots. This brand partners with juice and produce companies to upcycle their nutritious pulp and peels into crackers that—with the addition of tapioca flour, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, and nutritional yeast—actually ends up tasting like a healthy homemade Cheez-It that's both gluten-free and vegan.
The crackers are peppered with flax and chia seeds, giving you an even bigger health boost with every bite. I can attest that Seconds Carrot Crackers are delicious paired with cheese, like Philabundance’s Abundantly Good Cheddar, but I also fed them to a vegan friend who declared that they scratched her itch for the aforementioned non-vegan Cheez-Its.
7. Abokichi Okazu
Abokichi makes a line of products derived from highly nutritious sake kasu, the lees (or sediment) created as a byproduct of producing sake. Everything this brand makes is glorious—the miso soups have a faint aroma of sake that is truly lovely, while the okazu (or miso condiment) perfectly balances sweetness with umami and nuttiness.
Abokichi encourages you to put its mis condiments on everything—even pizza! I expected okazu to be a cousin of chili crisp, the condiment of the moment that is also delicious on everything, but okazu gives food both spice and depth. My favorite is Abokichi’s Curry Miso, which I recommend enjoying by the spoonful.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.