KANSAS CITY — With Earth Day coming April 22, consumers’ care for the earth and desire to reflect that care in their shopping habits has increased over the past year.
In data collected by Circana, a merger between IRI and The NPD Group, and the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business in September 2022, 93% of consumers surveyed said they maintained or increased their sustainable purchase habits in the past year, with 77% of consumers believing sustainability is important when selecting products to buy, which was up from 69% in 2021. Among consumer packaged goods (CPG), sustainable products represented just 17% of total sales, but they drove one-third of all CPG growth over the past year.
“Challenges such as supply chain disruptions and inflation have made it difficult for brands and manufacturers to identify which shopping behaviors are real trends, and which are a temporary response to market conditions,” said Randi Kronthal-Sacco, senior scholar at NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business in September. “Each year, our research with IRI shows increasing interest in sustainability-marketed CPG products, showing that sustainability has become a lasting priority for consumers.”
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) identified upcycled plant-based products as a trend within the food and beverage industry in 2023. Formally defined in 2020, upcycled ingredients include components of foods that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, which are both procured and produced using verifiable supply chains. Innova Markets Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands, tracked consumer sentiment toward foods formulated with upcycled ingredients for several years, and in 2022, the market research firm found more than a third of consumers considered upcycled products to be more appealing than other products.
“This overall trend provides manufacturers with opportunities for storytelling,” said Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova Market Insights, in an April interview. “According to our database of global food and beverage launches, North American food and beverage launches with a food waste and/or upcycling claim experienced 52% average annual growth between 2017 and 2021.”
Upcycled ingredient applications span their way across the grocery store, from the snack aisle to the beverage aisle.
Minus Coffee will be making its debut in 2023 as a bean-less coffee, instead opting for roasted upcycled roots, seeds and legumes as its base instead of coffee beans.
In a canned cold-brew offering, the bean-less coffee is formulated with date seeds, chicory, sunflower seeds, carob, lentils, grape seeds and millet malt. Production involves significantly less water, fewer carbon emissions and a shorter supply chain than conventional coffee, said Maricel Saenz, founder and chief executive officer of parent company Compound Foods.
“Instead of beans, we roast upcycled roots, seeds and legumes, which we then grind and brew in a gorgeous fermentation batch with caffeine,” Ms. Saenz said. “I am proud to say that we have successfully recreated the flavors, aromas and effects of coffee while eliminating the crop itself from the chain, a crop that is the sixth most pollutive agricultural process concentrated in regions around the equator.”
Kazoo Snacks uses corn germ as an upcycled ingredient in its tortilla chips, which are making their way to Sprouts Farmers Market locations nationwide in April. Manufacturing with corn germ as the main ingredient allows Kazoo Snacks to use 40% less whole corn and save 16 gallons of water per bag, according to the company. It also gives a complex nutrient profile to the chips, which contain essential nutrients, enzymes and vitamin E all included in the corn germ.
Food entrepreneurs and native Ecuadorians Juan Illingworth and Gaby Macias at Brutal Foods also opted for a complex and beneficial nutrient profile by choosing chocho, or the Andean lupin, as the star of their snack products.
The regenerative bean, which is cultivated at high altitudes, has more protein per serving than salmon, tofu or chickpeas, with fiber, calcium and the nine essential amino acids.
“Other beans and nuts already had their moment for years,” said Mr. Illingworth, co-founder of Brutal Foods, in a March interview. “It’s chocho’s time to get the place it deserves… So, we have been creating these baked crunchy puffs and brand for almost two years and focused on the real things that we consider important without sacrificing the pleasure of indulging.”
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