In honor of Eat Well Connect’s August newsletter highlighting the importance of sustainability and nutrition, we are thrilled to feature Daniel Kurzrock, Co-Founder at ReGrained, in this Expert Q&A. We had the opportunity to ask Daniel some questions about the journey of ReGrained and the importance of upcycled foods:

Can you share about your background in food retail and the path that led to your current role?

When I began to brew beer at the University of California Los Angeles in 2009 as an undergrad, my eyes were opened to how much food I was leaving behind with each batch. It takes on average about 1-pound of grain to make a 6-pack of beer—and the process only takes the sugars from the grain, leaving a lot behind! After discovering how tasty and nutritious the post-brewed grains were, I began to incorporate them into loaves of bread, and then sell them to cover my homebrewing expenses. As a sustainability nerd, I had heard the term “upcycling” used to describe projects that used the waste materials from one industry to create a new use for another industry. That’s when I saw the potential for “upcycled food” and my own brewer’s spent grain (BSG) was where it started—ReGrained was born!

With ReGrained we elevated the industries awareness that “spent” grains have the potential for a delicious second life. Over the years we also discovered far more potential for new upcycled food supply chains than we could have ever imagined beyond brewer’s grains including coffee leaves, cacao fruit, and more. We have become a discovery engine for nutritious and delicious ingredient solutions that continue to be left off the table. To reflect this, ReGrained today has been folded into an umbrella company Upcycled Foods Inc. to meet the growing demand for upcycled food innovation as a collaborator, development partner, and ingredients supplier.

For those who might not be familiar, what is “upcycled food”? And why is it important for health professionals to both understand and apply knowledge of this practice in their own work?

According to the Upcycled Food Association, an industry non-profit which we co-founded, the formal definition is that: “Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.” Put differently, upcycled foods are all about making sure that the food we produce goes its highest and best use—feeding people.

I think nutritious food is more than helping people lead healthy lives. It’s also about improving the health of our planet by creating a more sustainable food system. Health professionals are incredibly important and influential in helping people make better food choices, and this includes foods that are better for the environmental. In fact, according to IFIC’s 2022 Food & Health Survey, 52% of consumers are aware that their food and beverage choices affect the environment, and 95% want to do their part to reduce food waste.

So here’s why I think health professionals should actively encourage people to choose upcycled foods. In the U.S., we waste over one-third of our food each year. This is the equivalent of every American tossing-out 1,000 pounds of food, or an agricultural land footprint the size of California and New York—combined. These are staggering numbers! Further, all the resources and inputs required to produce this food are also wasted, yet still contributing to climate change. Upcycling closes the loop to support a more circular economy (it’s actually a corner stone of this principle) and helps ensure we simultaneously maximize the value of food and reduce our reliance on virgin food sources. Making resources and inputs work harder means we need less of them, thereby helping to reverse climate change.

Upcycled foods may also deliver more nutrition “bang,” bite-for-bite. For instance, consider our ReGrained SuperGrain flagship ingredient made from upcycled brewer’s spent grain. In the brewing process, only the sugars are extracted from the grain leaving behind a concentration of protein, fiber, and other important nutrients. Our ingredient contains 3.5 times the fiber and 2 times the protein of traditional whole wheat flours. In a bread, even at just a 15% inclusion a product can be elevated to a good or excellent source of fiber. The bottom line is that there is latent nutritional value in many waste streams and food production byproducts. Upcycling doesn’t just close the loop from an ecological perspective, they also can help close the nutrition gaps created by our modern food system.

Now you may be wondering, do consumers even know about upcycled food to look for it? Here’s some compelling research findings from Mattson, a leading food innovation firm: 57% of consumers indicate that they intend to specifically buy more upcycled food. And, 54% indicate that the Upcycled Food Association certification logo increased their purchase intent, ranking higher than Non-GMO and Regenerative Organic certifications. Health professionals have a wonderful opportunity to help empower their clients and patients by encouraging them to seek-out Upcycled Certified foods when shopping.

What are some of your favorite resources that you can share with the Eat Well Connect community to learn more about upcycled food, as well as other aspects of food sustainability that can be applied in their own practice?

Here are additional resources that will tell you more upcycled food, the certification standard, and our innovation and ingredient platform where the “magic” happens with food maker partners.

Food Waste Industry Information

Upcycled Food Association

Upcycled Foods Certification

Upcycled Foods Inc Industry Insights Whitepaper

Upcycled Foods Inc.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation Big Food Redesign

Lastly, what’s next for ReGrained in 2022 and beyond?

There is a lot going on at ReGrained/Upcycled Foods Inc. At the recent IFT FIRST expo, we introduced four new upcycled products. In partnership with Kerry, the global food ingredient innovator, we co-developed an upcycled protein crisp for a range of applications, such as bars, crisps, clusters, and granola. We launched an upcycled sourdough system in collaboration with Puratos, the leading product developed in the bakery category. Working with supply chain partners, we introduced upcycled cacao fruit syrup and coffee leaf tea. Together, these ingredient solutions expand our innovation potential with food maker customers!