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When shopping for produce, it’s only natural to pick up what looks the best. You assume the shiny red apples will be crunchier than the bruised ones, the smooth peppers will taste better in your salads than the less than perfect ones. Those oddly shaped carrots are an unspoken, yet firmly understood, hard pass. And yet, several strong trends point to people eating more fruits and vegetables. Even their pets are getting into the vegan or vegetarian act.
Amazingly, about one-fifth of produce is trashed simply because it’s unattractive, under or over ripe. And while food waste experts have said tossing perfectly edible produce is a global issue, Americans are particularly bad offenders. Some 60 million tons, or $160 billion worth of fruits and vegetables gets thrown away in the United States every year, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American family of four throws out an annual $1,600 worth of produce. And yet you walk down grocery aisles and and pick up that bag of apple chips thinking it is a healthier option for you and your family. Did you ever stop and think, where are the apple chips coming from? Who is making them? Where do “ugly” or imperfect apples, peaches, banana, pears, etc. go? Lately, they are going to new food startups.
There are several types of startups rising that are leveraging the fruit and vegetable markets where ugly or imperfect fruits and vegetables were destined for landfills. Some new companies are selling imperfect fruit and vegetables and celebrating their ugliness. Other startups are focused on repurposing spent grains. Others still are taking the fruit or vegetable and putting it in another form factor (i.e. apple chips, etc.). Here are four startups who are leveraging the food waste marketplace.
- Barnana: is on a mission to end food waste on organic banana farms by upcycling the bananas that used to go to waste. When “imperfect” bananas have scuffs, are a little too ripe, or aren’t the perfect size – they are typically rejected for export. Barnana takes these delicious bananas and turn them into a variety of snacks.
- Wonky Juice: is juice made from less than perfect fruits and vegetables The aptly named Get Wonky produce a variety of juices that are exclusively made from hand-picked fruit, regardless of its shape or size. The founders were inspired to start Get Wonky due to the fact that naturally grown fruit is often discarded due to its frequently misshapen nature.
- Appleooz: makesapple chips from apples that are not quite perfect. While dried apples aren’t exactly a novel idea, the founder came up with a method of soaking apples in juice, seasoning them and dehydrating them for an extended period of time so that they become crunchy, instead of soft and chewy like traditional dried apples. The founder works with local distributors to buy their imperfect apples, and composts or recycles 95 percent of the waste the company generates.
- Regrained: makes nutritious snacks from craft brewery process waste. ReGrained partners with craft breweries to upcycle their grain byproduct into delicious snacks. This low-sugar, high-protein brewer’s grain is the main functional ingredient in ReGrained SuperGrain+ bars. Their business model of “edible upcycling” finds a higher use for food that would have otherwise been discarded.
As a food startup wannabe, explore the food marketplace and be curious enough to find out what fruits and vegetables are being “wasted” and how perhaps they could be repurposed into another form of edible or nutritious food or perhaps even another product. Less than perfect food would potentially have lower costs and yet would feature the same nutrition value. At $160 billion, food waste is an enormous marketplace that might be “ripe for picking” for startups who want to leverage a nutritious, eco-friendly and sustainable business model.
April 24, 2019 at 11:20AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs