ANAHEIM, CALIF. — The upcycled food movement is gaining momentum as product developers create new uses for previously overlooked ingredients. Exhibitors at Natural Products Expo West sampled nutritious food and beverages formulated with avocado seeds, celery scraps, orange peels and other landfill-bound leftovers.

Nearly two dozen brands participated at the Upcycled Food Association booth during the event, held March 8-12 in Anaheim. Applications included snacks, pet food, beverages and baking mixes. Many other examples were spotted elsewhere on the show floor, demonstrating innovative ways to tackle food waste.

"As seen at Expo West '22, the upcycled food movement is producing an impressive amount of innovation, driven by increased demand from consumers, retailers, and the brands that serve them," said Dan Kurzrock, chief executive officer and co-founder of ReGrained. "At the Upcycled Food Association's flagship booth and throughout the show's hallowed halls, products could be found for every category powered by a diverse range of upcycled hero ingredients including cacao fruit, whey, brewers grain, coffee leaves, okara, juice pulp and more."

Pulp Pantry offers tortilla-style chips made with waste collected from vegetable juice processors. The startup repurposes remnants of celery, cucumbers and kale and may also source cores, peels, stems and damaged or unfit produce.

Renewal Mill converts the pulpy leftovers of soy and oat milk production into versatile, gluten-free flours that boost the fiber and protein content in a variety of consumer packaged goods. At Expo West, the company unveiled vegan salted peanut butter cookies developed in partnership with Miyoko’s Creamery, capturing the byproduct of Miyoko’s European-style cultured vegan butter.

Cajú Love uses cashew apples, the fleshy stems of the plant that often are discarded, to make a meat alternative that is rich in fiber, minerals and protein, according to the company. The brand’s organic cashew fruit meat has a texture similar to that of shredded chicken with neutral flavor.

Several products highlighted at the show incorporate whey, the nutrient-rich liquid left over from yogurt production. The Spare Food Co. and Superfrau offer sparkling beverages featuring whey, which is packed with protein and electrolytes, according to the companies. Wheyward Spirit, which produces a distilled specialty spirit using whey, collaborated with Ben & Jerry’s on a new ice cream flavor, Dublin Mudslide.

A few brands at Expo West launched products featuring the unused parts of the coffee plant. Wize produces ready-to-drink tea using coffee leaves, which are rich in antioxidants and produce a subtle caffeine effect with a smooth and lightly sweet taste, according to the company. A sparkling energy beverage featured at the show is made with cascara, the dried skin of coffee berries, and a juice drink is made using a process that retains taste and nutrition from fresh coffee berries.

A pair of brands highlighted components of the cacao fruit that are traditionally destined for the dump. CaPao, created by Mondelez International’s SnackFutures business unit, offers snack bites made with cacao fruit pulp, plus nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Blue Stripes Urban Cacao presented a collection of items using the husk and fruity white pulp. Blue Stripes’ line of cacao water is made from cacao fruit and contains no added sugar.

Take Two Foods uses the spent grain from beer brewing to produce barley milk. Hidden Gems Beverage Co. brews avocado seeds to produce Reveal, its ready-to-drink beverage brand, which also contains apple cider vinegar and monk fruit.

Confetti Snacks offers mushroom chips and vegetable chips based on imperfect or surplus produce. Flavors include green curry, black truffle, tandoori curry and teriyaki barbecue. Happy Moose Juice rescues and reimagines fruits unfit for supermarket shelves.

Agua Bonita offers a twist on the traditional Mexican refreshment aguas frescas, flavored waters typically formulated with sugar. The brand’s canned still beverages contain no sweeteners and are flavored with juice from watermelon, pineapple and lemons that would otherwise be wasted. Loop Mission’s range of cold-pressed juices, smoothies and probiotic soft drinks contain rejected fruits. The company also creates beer and gin from day-old bread and potato cuttings.

Rind Snacks is a brand of dried fruit products featuring the peel, which adds more nutrition and reduces food waste, according to the company. At Expo West, the company shared a sneak peek of its new line of flavored orange chips launching later this year.

Vine to Bar introduced dark chocolate made with chardonnay marc, a nutrient-rich, naturally sweet byproduct of winemaking. The Supplant Co. debuted chocolate bars sweetened with sugars from fiber, made using parts of crops such as stems, straw and cobs. Seven Sundays launched breakfast cereal made with upcycled sunflower seeds.

Less than a year ago, the Upcycled Food Association introduced its certification mark to provide consumers with clear guidance about the presence of upcycled food ingredients in a range of products, including food and beverages, pet food, dietary supplements and more. Research showed more than 50% of consumers had increased intent to buy Upcycled Certified food when the mark was on packaging. 

"Today, achieving a circular food economy is more than a plausible reality... as an upcycled ingredient supplier and innovation partner we can literally taste it," Mr. Kurzrock said. "Best of all, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible... so as we like to say, onward and upward."