Upcycled food - the sustainable approach to food production

Upcycled products prevent food waste by creating new, high-quality products out of surplus food. The concept is gaining more and more popularity as companies and consumers make efforts to change to more sustainable ways. This concept revolves around maximizing efficiency and optimizing the utilization of all food to its fullest potential. A concept where PEF (pulsed electric field) technology can play a significant role. In this post, we’ll explore how upcycling and PEF can interact.

Upcycling in food production - A necessary step for increased sustainability

According to the Upcycled Food Association, 5 criteria define the concept:

  1. Upcycled foods are made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up in a food waste destination.
  2. Upcycled foods are value-added products.
  3. Upcycled foods are for human consumption.
  4. Upcycled foods have an auditable supply chain.
  5. Upcycled foods indicate which ingredients are upcycled on their labels.

Put plainly, upcycled food products are created using excess ingredients that might otherwise have been discarded as food waste.

The concept involves economics, sustainability, and consumer demand all in one. For example, according to the association, “globally, we lose around $1 trillion (!) per year on food that is wasted or lost.”

Furthermore, food production has a significant impact on climate. 8% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from food loss and waste.

The benefits are plenty, according to Forbes, the trend is catching on. The upcycled food market is worth $46.7 billion with an expected CAGR of 5% over the next 10 years.

Further reading

Technology - An important factor for upcycled success

Successful upcycling initiatives often require a holistic approach that considers economic, environmental, and social aspects while addressing the unique challenges and opportunities of the specific industry or product category.

In addition,  implementing the right technology and having the right expertise is crucial. Determine the appropriate technology or processes for upcycling. This may involve specialized equipment, knowledge, and expertise. Ensure that your team has the necessary skills to implement these technologies effectively.

Being up-to-date with the latest advancements in upcycling technologies and practices is important. Investing in research and development to continuously improve your upcycling processes is money well spent.

Upcycling in food production
Upcycling requires a holistic approach and several factors needs to be adressed. Technology is one factor.

Pulsed Electric Field as an enabler of food upcycling

Pulsed electric field (PEF) technology can be beneficial for upcycling in the food industry. PEF is a non-thermal food processing technique that uses short bursts of high-voltage electrical energy to disrupt cell membranes and tissues. The technology has several potential applications in upcycling:

  • Extraction of Valuable Compounds: PEF can be used to extract valuable compounds from food byproducts and waste materials. Applying PEF to plant material, for example, can facilitate the release of bioactive compounds, pigments, flavors, and essential oils that can be used as ingredients in various food products.
  • Enzyme Activation: PEF can enhance the activity of enzymes naturally present in food materials. This can be particularly useful in breaking down complex molecules into simpler ones, making it easier to extract valuable components or convert waste into usable products.
  • Enhancing Fermentation: In food waste upcycling, PEF can improve the efficiency of fermentation processes. By disrupting the cell structure of microorganisms or substrates, PEF can increase the availability of nutrients and improve the overall fermentation yield.
  • Preservation of Freshness: PEF can extend the shelf life of certain foods and beverages. This can be beneficial for upcycling food waste or byproducts that are susceptible to spoilage, allowing them to be used in new products for a longer time.
  • Tenderization: In the context of meat upcycling, PEF can be used to tenderize tougher cuts of meat or meat from older animals, making it suitable for inclusion in products like sausages, meatballs, or processed meats.
  • Reduction of Microbial Load: PEF can also be employed to reduce the microbial load in food materials, improving their safety and suitability for upcycling into new products.
  • Waste Reduction: By effectively extracting valuable compounds or making food materials more suitable for reuse, PEF can contribute to reducing the overall waste generated in food processing.

In conclusion, there are several positive aspects of implementing PEF to achieve upcycling effects. However, the specific benefits of PEF in upcycling depend on the type of food waste or byproduct being processed and the desired end product.

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