What is 'upcycled' food?

You may have heard the term “upcycled food” used in the past year — or maybe not. In any case, you'll likely be hearing it more now that it has a specific definition.

The term, which has been used to refer to the reduction of food waste by using more of a whole product, now has an official definition created by the nonprofit Upcycled Food Association.

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The association, created in late 2019, enlisted the help of a task force consisting of academic, nonprofit and industry leaders to come up with the definition, which is intended to help food companies better identify ingredients “as helping to reduce food waste,” New Hope Network reported.

The term, which has been used to refer to the reduction of food waste by using more of a whole product, now has an official definition created by the nonprofit Upcycled Food Association, which formed in late 2019.

The term, which has been used to refer to the reduction of food waste by using more of a whole product, now has an official definition created by the nonprofit Upcycled Food Association, which formed in late 2019. (iStock)

"Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment," their definition for the term reads.

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"It sounds obvious," said Ben Gray, chief operations officer of Upcycled Food Association, per the New Hope Network, "but the process of arriving at the definition is just as important as the definition itself. This definition was created for the same reasons the Upcycled Food Association was created: to unify the industry, clarify the vision and serve as a center of gravity for the upcycled movement."

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The upcycled food movement places emphasis on using “upcycled ingredients” — or ingredients like avocado seeds, leftover grains, vegetable pulp or other safe-to-consume food byproducts that may have otherwise been thrown away. Theses ingredients can be transformed into juices, chips or other foodstuffs.

According to ReFED, a nonprofit reporting on data around food waste and how to eliminate it, food waste costs retailers about $18.2 billion a year.

According to ReFED, a nonprofit reporting on data around food waste and how to eliminate it, food waste costs retailers about $18.2 billion a year. (iStock)

The growth of the movement parallels an uptick in consumer interest in sustainability and more eco-conscious food brands.

According to Food Dive, more than 70 members have since joined the Upcycled Food Association, vowing to commit to reducing food waste.

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ReFED, a nonprofit reporting on data around food waste and how to eliminate it, estimates that food waste costs retailers about $18.2 billion a year. New research has shown about 40 percent of food goes to waste, and accounts for about 8 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The Boston Consulting Group further reported food waste, globally, tallies to about $1.2 trillion annually, New Hope Network reported.

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