A Food System Fueled by Upcycling

ReGrained

2. Zero Hunger 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

ReGrained creates food products that are good for you and good for the planet. Their flagship product is SuperGrain+, a versatile ingredient which has similar applications to wheat flour but has 55% more dietary fiber and 26% fewer calories, and is also high in protein. It is derived from “spent” brewer’s grain. Brewers first steep malted barley in hot water to extract its sugars and starches, and what remains ReGrained then transforms this into SuperGrain+ through their patented process. Their business "upcycles" nutritious edible byproducts and create delicious food ingredients and products. In the spirit of SDG #9, they partnered with the US government to develop an innovative process to capture the value from overlooked ingredients considered byproducts. They are practicing responsible consumption, SDG #12, by keeping valuable organics in the food system and not going to waste. Lastly, reduced food waste also reduces greenhouse gases and contributes to SDG #13 Climate Action.

Author

Janet Kraayenbrink Viader

Janet Kraayenbrink Viader

School

Bard MBA in Sustainability

Bard MBA in Sustainability

Professor

Kristina Kohl

Kristina Kohl

Innovation

In order for their idea to work, Dan and Jordan needed to develop a process to gently and safely dehydrate the grains leftover from the brewing process. They wanted to lose the water but maintain the micro-nutrients and flavor profile. It also had to be energy efficient. Through a partnership with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, ReGrained worked with scientists dedicated to researching practical solutions to fighting food waste.

It took several years, but they eventually succeeded in creating a patent-protected process. This innovative technology (SDG #9)allowed ReGrained to increase production of their SuperGrain+ flour, what they call their "hero ingredient" for use in their own product line and in various industry partnerships with powerhouse CPG brands like Barilla and popular foodservice chains like Just Salad.

Dan recalls, "We didn't set out to develop technology... but it was necessary to scale the solution." He pointed out that since there's a lot of water in the byproduct of brewing, you need to be close to the point of production in order for it to be successfully recaptured and repurposed. He explains, "The process stabilizes the grain that comes from the brewery, and turns it into something that is usable and desirable for human food." Besides testing for nutritional value, they have even done sensory evaluations on the flavor and aromas, and came back with positive feedback.

"Part of the broader vision is to license this process all over the world to create localized sources of upcycled ingredients. Every beverage you can think of can use this process [to upcycle its leftover ingredients]."

Moreover, this technology is incredibly energy efficient making it ideal and practical for an urban environment. it an interesting solution to the issue of food waste (SDG #12), and also has the potential to increase the available nutrition around the world.

A Food System Fueled by Upcycling

Dan Kurzrock, cofounder of ReGrained wants you to Eat Beer.

Inspiration

It all started with beer.

Daniel Kurzrock met his good friend and future business partner Jordan Schwartz in college. They discovered a mutual appreciation for craft beer and soon started homebrewing in school. At first they discarded the leftover grains after each small brew, but Dan recounts their uneasiness, "It looked, smelled, and tasted like food." They tried their hand at baking bread with it, and soon they were selling bread on campus to finance their hobby.

Yet the more they learned about the versatility and nutritious quality of what brewers call "spent grains," and the massive quantities of it being wasted around the world, the more they thought maybe there was a sustainable business opportunity in this overlooked ingredient. While they had a passion for beer, the cofounders were even more passionate about protecting the environment. When Dan and Jordan discovered just how widespread food waste was and the scale of CO2 emissions it created, they were determined to make an impact by upcycling these ingredients back into the food system.

What started as a hobby transformed into a new mission. Their mission statement on their website reads: Our mission is to better align the food we eat with the planet we love.

Overall impact

Food waste is a global issue creating greenhouse gas emissions from the release of methane gas. If you aggregate the emissions from food waste, it would be the world's third largest polluter, behind China and the United States. Moreover, one-third of the world's food is wasted according to studies by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

ReGrained is part of the solution (SDG #13). To date, Dan and Jordan have upcycled more than 261,954 lbs. of grain.

The co-founders anticipate scaling their double solution to food waste and the global nutrition deficit with their "ReGrained magic process." Their low cost and energy-efficient production of SuperGrain+ allows them to upcycle more barley flour than what goes into their current product line.

Their main route to scalability is through selling the ingredient through the B2B market, which they have done successfully and at a healthy gross margin in line with the CPG industry. Furthermore, because SuperGrain+ brings both nutritional value and environmental stewardship claims, it is received as a value add or "hero ingredient" by ReGrained's wholesale customers. They market the incorporation of the upcycled ingredient, SuperGrain+ in their products so they can make USDA-approved health claims on fiber and be included in the rapidly growing "better for you" grocery category. Through brand partnerships like the one with Barilla Pasta, ReGrained has expanded their upcycling impact and their revenues.

"The broader vision is to take this process all over the world to create localized sources of upcycled ingredients. Every beverage you can think of can use this process [to upcycle its leftover ingredients]." says Dan Kurzrock.

Moreover, this technology is incredibly energy efficient making it ideal and practical for an urban environment. As the world becomes more urbanized and densely populated, the impact on local food waste and nutrition could be tremendous.

Business benefit

With the innovation, came a scalable solution to what would have otherwise been a costly operations issue. Despite the impressive qualities of leftover brewer's grains, they require processing within a few hours because of the high level of moisture.

Having this technology gave ReGrained more control over its production, and opened up the opportunity to work with other commercial food companies either directly with their snack products, or with their SuperGrain+ ingredient. More recently they also pursued partnerships with larger companies like Griffith Foods, an ingredient company that also does product development. Together they could test and develop new products, and pilot them through Griffith's relationships with larger food chains, simultaneously raising consumer awareness and fighting food waste.

During our call, Dan shared his conviction that aligning with large consumer goods companies is important for scaling impact. First, larger companies can use the SuperGrain+ as an ingredient in most of their products. Second, they have wider global distribution, sales and marketing channels that can expand the reach of those product lines enhanced by the SuperGrain+ ingredient. He said that with Griffith Foods and Barilla, they were able to do just that by align their interests to affect change at scale within the food system. Meanwhile, ReGrained's own line of products can benefit from the additional resources and association with larger brands.

As they continue refining their product line, ReGrained is showing proof of concept for the desirability and consumer demand for responsible and sustainable products. By proving the popularity of their food products at home, and continuing to build more partnerships with large food companies, ReGrained is setting the groundwork for taking their innovative process global and applying it to more types of overlooked edible ingredients. While this next phase of the business is still in development, Dan realizes that their energy efficient technology could enable communities around the world to create valuable nutritious solutions from ingredients in their own food systems.

Social and environmental benefit

By capturing the nutritional value of spent grains and reintroducing these ingredients into the food system, people and the planet are better off.

First, the SuperGrain+ flour and ReGrained products are all high in fiber which contributes significantly to digestive health. Diets high in fiber assist people in maintaining a healthy weight, lowering their cholesterol, and risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. As we spoke, Dan recalled a recent statistic from nutritionists, he explained that only 5% of Americans get enough fiber in their diet. "By substituting just 15% of traditional wheat flour with SuperGrain+ flour, any recipe would generally meet the USDA 'good source of fiber' claim." Their SugerGrain+ also contain prebiotics, or non-dietary fiber that supports a healthy digestive system. In addition, they use organic ingredients and non-GMOs in their snack bars, thereby supporting sustainable agriculture.

Lastly, ReGrained is raising awareness about the issue of food waste at every step through their messaging, thought leadership, and partnerships with movements like B Corp and 1% for the Planet. As a certified B Corp since 2018, they demonstrate their commitment to good governance and transparency, with partial worker ownership and high scores in environmental stewardship. They support their community through civic engagement & giving, local involvement, job creation, diversity & inclusion, and local supplier programs. ReGrained also wanted philanthropy "baked in" to their business model, and through 1% for the Planet they donate 1% of sales annually to nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting the environment. They were also founding board members of the newly formed Upcycled Food Association (UFA), an industry group for businesses and nonprofits promoting the use of upcycled food ingredients. Current UFA membership spans across three continents. and they plan to educate international consumers about the environmental perils of food waste and the many benefits of embracing a more circular food system.

Interview

Daniel Kurzrock, Co-founder

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ReGrained

ReGrained

San Francisco, California, US

Business Website: https://www.regrained.com/

Year Founded: 2014

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

ReGrained believes in capturing the delicious and nutritious value of overlooked ingredients in our food system, by creating healthy food products that also help fight food waste. Their tasty recipes for granola bars and savory Puffs are powered by SuperGrain+, the company’s flagship upcycled product that is created using their patented process to transform “spent” brewers’ grain into a nutritious, versatile and functional ingredient. ReGrained sells SuperGrain+ through business-to-business partnerships and their own branded product lines.