Keith NunesKANSAS CITY — As food and beverage manufacturers invest more in strategies to reduce food waste, some are uncovering unique business opportunities. As a result, food waste may offer more promise than solely as an initiative to improve a company’s sustainability score. It offers potential growth through the development of innovative products or ingredients that initially may appeal to those consumers who incorporate a company’s commitment to environmental sustainability and mitigating climate change into their purchasing decisions.

The concept of using food waste to develop products is in the embryonic stage, but during the past few years several companies, both established and emerging, have demonstrated how raw materials once considered useless may be recycled into the components of a finished product or a valuable ingredient. Perhaps the highest profile company to embark on such an initiative is Tyson Foods, Inc., Springdale, Ark., which earlier this year launched its Yappah platform.

The first product marketed through the Yappah brand is a protein crisp made with what the company calls “upcycled” chicken breast trim, blended with carrot or celery purees left over from juicing or spent malted barley from beer brewing. The products are marketed in aluminum cans, have 8 to 10 grams of protein per serving and are available in a variety of unique flavors. Tyson Foods is test marketing the crisp to learn more about consumer perception and interest in such a product.

Food waste may offer more promise than solely as an initiative to improve a company’s sustainability score.

At IFT18, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held this past July in Chicago, Renewal Mill, Oakland, Calif., won the I.F.T.’s inaugural Future Food Disruptor of the Year award. The company’s flagship product is okara flour, a high fiber, gluten-free flour made from the pulpy byproduct of soy milk processing. The company has developed a line of individually packaged cookies made with the flour that may be sold in convenience stores and food service outlets. The company also is working on the development of a starch sourced from the byproducts of pea processing.

Another company attempting to capitalize on the potential of food waste is ReGrained, San Francisco, which uses spent grain from beer brewing to offer a branded ingredient, ReGrained Supergrain + flour, and a line of branded snack bars featuring the ingredient. The flour is high in protein and dietary and prebiotic fiber, according to the company.

Anecdotes are not evidence of a trend, but consumer and industry interest in sustainability may indicate there is significant potential in developing and creating new products that promote the environmental benefits of using food waste. Such creative products also may be a way for companies to connect with such emerging consumer groups as millennials and Gen Z.

Large numbers from both demographic cohorts seek to accelerate positive change in the world and are interested in products with attributes that promote such change. Taste and price always will be the primary drivers when consumers consider a purchase, but no one should underestimate consumer interest, particularly among younger consumers, in inventive products that promote an environmentally friendly, sustainable future.