SAN FRANCISCO — Upcyclers, those food and ingredient manufacturers who incorporate food waste into products, have formed the Upcycled Food Association. Launched in October 2019, the nascent group’s goal is to develop a formal definition of upcycling and advocate for policies that will inform consumers and accelerate marketplace acceptance of finished products and ingredients.
The founding group included eight members, but the association’s membership has more than doubled since its inception, said Caroline Cotto, chief operating officer of Renewal Mill, Oakland, Calif., and president of the association.
“Our first directive as an organization is to formally define what it means to be upcycled,” Ms. Cotto said during an interview at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco on Jan. 19. “We are working with the F.D.A., the U.S.D.A., some researchers from Drexel University on the term upcycled, food waste and what it means to consumers.”
The group also will advocate to streamline the process of classifying upcycled ingredients for use in foods.
“A lot of these ingredients have never been classified by the U.S.D.A. or the F.D.A.,” Ms. Cotto said. “A resource we are offering to members is how to get this new class of ingredients recognized by the government and to advocate for making the process easier.”
“We want to make it as easy for the consumer to understand that (a product) is made from something that may have otherwise gone to waste and that is good for the environment.” — Caroline Cotto, Upcycled Food Association
She added that developing a definition of upcycling is ongoing, but the members hope to have their research finalized by the Natural Products Expo West trade show in March. They also are hoping to launch a certification program that will include a logo or stamp manufacturers may use to communicate to consumers a product contains upcycled ingredients by October of this year.
“We want to create a formal certification program very similar to organic,” Ms. Cotto said. “We want to make it as easy for the consumer to understand that (a product) is made from something that may have otherwise gone to waste and that is good for the environment.”
The group is currently being “holistic” about membership, Ms. Cotto said.
“We are looking at their (prospective members’) mission and whether they have a food waste directive,” she said. “But we’re still so new we are trying to get people in the door first and then really add value to the membership as it continues to grow.
“But we have created the distinction between members and associate members, with members being people who are actually producing an upcycled product and associate members being people who are using or marketing upcycled ingredients.”
The group is based in Denver and led by Turner Wyatt, chief executive officer. Other founding members include Barnana, FoodMaven, Imperfect Foods, Renewal Mill, ReGrained and others. The group’s web site may be found at www.upcycledfoods.org.