These 9 Companies Are Proof That Food Waste Can Be Edible and Profitable

By Elisa Djuhar, Cornell University Food Science undergraduate student

Meet the Food Entrepreneurs giving Unwanted Food New Life

According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted in food product and consumption systems.

This is worth around $1 trillion and when converted to calories, global food loss and waste amounts to about 24% of all foods produced. In other words, 1 out of every 4 food calories intended for consumption is not actually eaten.

Environmentally, this results in 3.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases annually. Food loss and waste inflict a host of environmental impact and represent an inefficient allocation of resources. Additionally, given that 805 million people worldwide live in chronic hunger, food that end up in landfills can in actual fact be used to reduce hunger worldwide.

Such great inefficiencies suggest great saving opportunities. The movement to end food waste began as early as in the 1980s when soup kitchens started collecting unwanted food from farms and businesses.

Recently, there has been an emerging group of food waste advocates who believe food waste should go beyond the soup kitchens, stock pots, and accumulating landfills where it been historically diverted. Successful businesses that further deliver an environmental and social impact–like Pulp Pantry, Imperfect Produce and Marshall Ingredients–have been cultivated out of food we would historically consider waste. Here are a few more (of the many) examples we can find in this emerging group of entrepreneurs giving food waste a whole new look:

1. Blue Hill

Last year, chef and owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Blue Hill, Dan Barber, started a pop-up restaurant called wastED. The menu, priced at $15, was centered around overlooked products that most people would consider as trash or waste. This includes items such as “cured cuts of waste-fed pig served with reject carrot mustard, off-grade sweet potatoes, and melba toast from yesterday’s oatmeal,” and “dry-aged beef ends broth with malt rootlets, mystery vegetables and peels.”

There was also a glossary at the bottom of the menu that explains terms where necessary. For example, “off-grade” was described as “below a commercially recognized standard of quality,” and “dry-aged beef ends” was described as “the hard exterior layers of dry-aged beef.”

2. Silo

Silo is UK’s first ever zero-waste restaurant. From leftover food ingredients such as vegetable peels, ox heart and pig’s blood, to seats made from recycled wood and drinks served in recycled jam-jar glasses, everything at Silo is compostable.

And although the recycling element is what sets Silo apart, the high quality of the food is what keeps customers coming back. Truly, Silo has proven that a sustainable food business can be both financially and ethically viable.

3. Misfit Juicery

Misfit Juicery, a brand of cold-pressed juices, utilizes 70% to 80% of blemished or misshapen fruits and vegetables to make their delicious and nutritious products. These otherwise wasted foods also cost about 40% to 75% cheaper than “perfect” versions of the food, thus providing financial benefits for the company.

4. Rubies in the Rubble 

UK-based company Rubies in the Rubble uses misshapen and surplus produce that would have been otherwise discarded, to make a variety of relishes, jams and pickles.

For example, their Pickled Onion & Chili Relish utilizes oversized and blemished Rosanna pink onions, and their Spicy Tomato Relish utilizes tomatoes that are too ripe or too blemished for supermarkets and restaurants. On average, they save 300 curly cucumbers, 2100 juicy tomatoes and 4400 pink onions per month, which all amounts to 2962kg of CO2.

5. Daily Table

Founded by former president of Trader Joe’s Doug Rauch, Daily Table is a nonprofit grocery store in Dorchester, Boston, that aims to provide nutritious, sustainable and affordable food options to the low-income families. Most of its stocks are donated by other grocery stores, suppliers and food rescue organizations. In most cases, there were simply a surplus of these items, or these items were rejected due to superficial problems unrelated to its quality.

Chefs at the Daily Table also prepare ready-to-eat meals with these excess ingredients, keeping in mind that these prepared meals must meet the nutritional guidelines, cost between $2 to $4, and as little as possible goes to waste.

food waste plum pear


More examples can be found in the second part of this article!

These are just a few ways food industry entrepreneurs are tackling problems of food waste and sustainability. For us students, we can definitely help the problem by shopping wisely and only consuming what we need. Knowing the warmest and coldest parts of our fridge and how to store leftovers can also prevent food spoilage.

For those interested to get more involved in finding solutions to reduce or reuse food wastes, be sure to participate in the inaugural Evolution of Food Waste (EFW) Product Development Competition launched by the Research Chefs Association.


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