Episode 234: Turner Wyatt
Food waste is something we talk about a lot on The Produce Moms and it comes to no surprise that more than 40% of food in America each year is wasted. Turner Wyatt is the CEO and Co-Founder of Upcycled Food Association, a three-year-old global community with over 225 businesses across 20 countries as members. Previous Produce Moms guests like Superfrau and Sunrise Fresh (also one of our partners) are members of the Upcycled Food Association, and UCA now offers the world’s first third-party certification program for upcycled food ingredients and products.
You know the term recycled, but what is upcycled and how do you do it with food? Upcycling food is actually an ancient tradition where ingredients that previously would have gone to waste or not been consumed by humans (i.e. sent to a compost pile, hog farm, plowed over, or thrown away) are used to create new, high quality food products that make a positive impact on the environment. Superfrau, who you can learn more about on Episode 215, is a great example of upcycling. Superfrau is a sparkling, bubbly, functional whey beverage that is made from upcycled whey that comes from the Greek yogurt fermentation process. Another Produce Moms guest (and brand partner) Sunrise Fresh, uses cherries that would normally be thrown out due to their imperfections and dries them for the perfect, dried fruit snack.
Turner got started upcycling food straight out of college when he founded the Denver Food Rescue, a non-profit that would deliver excess food to low income families and food pantries. DFR was unique in that they were focused on providing fresh produce, rather than the typical products found at food pantries like soda, canned food and bread. They still wanted to find a use for the large amounts of leftover bread, however, so they started upcycling the bread into beer and toasted bagel chips. That way, the non-profit could make a profit and create new, high quality products that people would love. A great example of a food that needs to be upcycled is cacao. The cacao plant is a tree that grows large fruit and we use the seeds of that fruit to make chocolate. The rest of the fruit and its shell is thrown out, so almost 10 billion pounds of cacao fruit goes to waste every year, when it could be upcycled into a new, nutritious and delicious product. A study done by Mattson Research Group found that 99% of people agree food waste is bad and a study from Innova Insights found that 62% of consumers were willing to pay more for a product that prevented food waste. It’s clear that consumers’ attitudes are changing and the Upcycled Food Association wants to help companies react to this, innovate, and have the greatest chance at success while making the greatest impact against food waste.
Members with Upcycled Certified products have now prevented more than 900 million pounds of food waste annually. The impact is clear, and although it takes a few months and is an investment to get certified, from 2021-2022 upcycled products grew over 1000% in the natural retail channel, and over 400% in the conventional retail channel.
Not only is there a huge benefit for us globally to create upcycled products, there’s an immense opportunity for sales and business growth for any business that has excess or wasted ingredients they could turn into a new product. Upcycled Food Association wants to work with all companies – not just ones in the “good for you” space. Similar to organic goods where there’s organic produce, organic snacks and things like organic candy or butter, Turner hopes to see the same takeover with Upcycled Certified products. At the end of the day, it’s only an added benefit to the world to have more organic products, and more upcycled products, no matter what type of product that is.
“Think about what new sustainable ingredients you can use to make a product more nutritious, more affordable and more sustainable. Consumers’ attitudes are changing and product companies need to react to that and innovate. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do by helping these businesses so that when they innovate they have the best chance of success.” Turner Wyatt (14:34-14:57)
So many of the members in the Upcycled Food Association are waking up to the opportunity they have to make more money by using their wasted ingredients. Farmers who have been watching their produce be wasted for decades are realizing the consumer mindset has shifted and they can turn their ingredients into a dehydrated snack, a powder to sell to other companies who will use it as an ingredient, or even, for example, “imperfect” spaghetti squash that’s now a ready-to-eat pasta! Working with Upcycled Food Association is huge because they can track insights and quantify just how impactful these upcycled products are.
Upcycling is already happening with hundreds of different brands around the world who are taking excess food and upcycling it into new, high quality products for food, cosmetics, clothing, plastics and more. Turner highly suggests companies look at how they can add value to the supply chain and make a positive impact on the environment, and hop into the upcycling industry now while it’s affordable and the demand is quickly increasing. Learn about what companies are currently Upcycled Certified, how to find the label at your favorite grocery retailer, and what delicious products you can enjoy from Upcycled Food Association members at: https://www.upcycledfood.org/
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
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Previous episodes you may enjoy
- Episode 233: Tony Freytag
- Episode 232: Burnell and Keasha Cotlon
- Episode 231: Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak
- Episode 229: Joanna Jaramillo
- Episode 228: Mary Jacobsen