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  • Writer's pictureElissa Strassman

What is upcycled food?

Updated: May 10

Learn about how people are getting innovative to help prevent and reduce food loss and waste around the globe with upcycled foods.

What is upcycled food?

What happens when fruits and vegetables don’t meet market standards because of their appearance, size, or shape? What about the pulp that’s leftover from pressing oats/soybean/sunflower seeds/fruit that were used to make plant based milks, oil, or juice? How about the spent grains people have after making beer, or other scraps that are left over after cutting foods to their appropriate portion size to sell?


These are questions we may not be thinking of when we grab a product off the shelf, however, perhaps something to keep in mind when we consider their contribution to food waste and loss. 


For some of the items mentioned above, the destination may be to exit the food chain and be left in the field to to not be eaten, or be discarded after use, for others they may enter the world of upcycled foods. 


What are upcycled foods?


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. 

Upcycled foods are typically made using ingredients that would not be considered marketable food products.


These may include:

  • sub-grade produce

  • by-products of other manufacturing

  • scraps from food preparation


There are five elements to upcycled foods:


  1. Upcycled foods are made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up in any food waste destination.

  2. Upcycled foods are value-added products.

  3. Upcycled foods are for human consumption.

  4. Upcycled foods have an auditable supply chain: meaning the company can show proof of how the upcycled ingredient in their product was deterred from going to waste, the process they used for upcycling it, how they used it in their product, and how much of the upcycled ingredient is in their product.

  5. Upcycled foods indicate which ingredients are upcycled on their labels.


Some people may be wondering, are upcycled foods safe to eat? 


The answer is yes!


Upcycled foods have to adhere to the same food safety standards for which all food companies must comply.


Where can I find upcycled foods?


If companies are wanting to market their products as upcycled, they will need to clearly identify what ingredient(s) is upcycled on their ingredient list. 


Some companies may choose to voluntarily get their products Upcycled Certified. 


  • Upcycled certified ingredients must contain greater than or equal to 95% upcycled ingredients by weight. 

  • Upcycled certified products must contain greater than or equal to 10% upcycled ingredients by weight.


You may learn more about Upcycled Foods, Upcycled Certification, and locate Upcycled Certified Products by visiting here:



What do you think about the world of upcycled foods? Would knowing a product was upcycled impact your decision to purchase that food? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 


For me…I think I would still follow my same thought process in evaluating packaged foods.


Some things I look for when when investigating a packaged product:


  • Taste, quality, and appeal

  • Nutrition and ingredients

  • How this product aligns with my ethics/values, i.e how it was produced, raised, etc.

  • Cost

  • How does this fit into my overall lifestyle?



Resources:




Moshtaghian, H., Bolton, K., & Rousta, K. (2021). Challenges for Upcycled Foods: Definition, Inclusion in the Food Waste Management Hierarchy and Public Acceptability. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 10(11), 2874. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10112874



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