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Can upcycled products end food waste on an industrial scale?

Words by Smiley Team

In a significant step for ending food waste, the Upcycled Food Association (UFA) has announced it is partnering with food and beverage multinational Mondelez. The collaboration will see increasing numbers of upcycled products arriving on supermarket shelves. These will be identifiable thanks to a certification scheme to be introduced this year.Advising around 150 food companies like Mondelez, the UFA promotes efficiency in the food system, ensuring that valuable ingredients do not go to waste during the manufacturing process. With their expertise combined with the reach of large food manufacturers and retailers, the nonprofit hopes to transform our food production system to meet the needs of an increasingly fragile planet with finite resources.CEO of UFA Turner Wyatt explained: “Mondelez is is is a big company, and they have their finger on the pulse of the food industry all around the world. We keep hearing estimates like we have 10 years to reverse climate change and that's really scary. What that should tell us is we need to act big, and we need to act now. “While big food companies are not good at everything. One thing they're really good at is scale, and that's exactly what Mondelez wants to do - they want to provide a big impact in the near term.”Upcycled products are manufactured from nutritiously valuable parts of raw ingredients that usually go to waste. Food producers can optimise these to create a new food product. To give an example of a source of upcycled products, Turner said: “Around every coffee bean is a fruit. It's delicious and nutritious and you can use it for all kinds of things but right now it just piles out the coffee plantations because there's no use for it. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have value.”Such products are already available in supermarkets around the world and will soon be more easily recognisable thanks to a UFA certification scheme they will introduce in upcoming months.

Why is food waste a problem?

After food arrives in landfill sites and starts to biodegrade it emits so much greenhouse gas that if food waste were a country it would be the third-highest emitter after the US and China. But food waste is not only an environmental problem. Before founding the UFA, Turner was the executive director of a small nonprofit called Denver Food Rescue.He explained: “I became very aware of just how broken our food system is how racist it is and that it provides higher quality and more nutritious foods to whiter and wealthier communities and how it provides more unhealthy illness-causing foods to communities of colour and lower-income communities.”By taking unused parts of ingredients and turning them into additional products to be sold, the UFA is creating new sources of revenue for small-scale farmers worldwide, the majority of whom are poor and suffer from food insecurity themselves.“So for me, upcycled food presents, not only an opportunity to make the food system more sustainable,” Turner added, “but more equitable and just as well because we're tapping into a really valuable source of revenue.” 

Partnering for people and the planet

To join the UFA as a member company and advance the mission of tackling food waste, sign up here. The membership fees are based on your company’s gross annual sales and, to address inequalities, businesses led by women or people of colour are entitled to a 50 per cent discount.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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