Friday, April 15, 2022

Plant-Based Dairy 2.0: An Opportunity for Dairy Processors


After spending some time exploring supermarkets and co-ops in the Portland, Oregon, area this week, as well as speaking with Pacific Northwesterners at the Oregon Dairy Industries annual meeting (wonderful to visit with so many of you!), I discovered that while plant-based and vegetarianism/veganism is common in this neck of the woods, the reason for most consumers to follow such a diet is because they believe it is better for the planet. And for many, current plant-based dairy and meat alternatives do not cut it, as they are overly processed and actually creating new waste streams. (Think almonds.) Enter plant-based dairy 2.0.

Plant-based dairy 2.0 focuses on upcycled ingredients. The easiest one is the inclusion of “ugly” fruits and vegetables. But there are other ingredients that may be sourced to be “upcycled,” and with all the supply chain connections dairy processors have, along with the manufacturing know-how, this is the way to enter the plant-based sector and provide a point of distinction. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food waste accounts for approximately 6% of human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And, with more than 30% of all food produced globally being lost or going to waste, that’s a big problem. Upcycled foods, and upcycled food ingredients, prevent this problem by creating new, high-quality products from surplus food. 

The Upcycled Foods Association reports that 60% of people want to buy more upcycled food products, and that’s because 95% of us want to do our part to reduce food waste. For more information on the association, link HERE.

The association defines upcycled foods as ones that “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.”

Upcycled foods appeal to the flexitarian, the consumer trying to reduce intake of animal-based products but does not necessarily avoid them. Flexitarians are interested in their health and the health of the planet; however, they are not willing to compromise on enjoyment. 

The Frozen Farmer presents the perfect example of a dairy using upcycled ingredients to make a non-dairy frozen dessert. With more than 20% of the fruits and veggies in America being “too ugly” to make it off the farm and into the grocery store, this Delaware-based family farm decided to make these ugly produce items the star of frozen desserts. Some are dairy ice cream and others are non-dairy sorbet. The company use the perfectly imperfect produce that tastes delicious despite the way it looks.

HERE is a list of other food companies using upcycled ingredients and marketing products as such. 

There are other ingredients that go into dairy and plant-based dairy foods that may come from upcycled stream, namely fibers and some sweeteners. 

Something for you to ponder this Easter weekend when the littles hunt out eggs in the fields and gardens. With Earth Day being next week, Friday, April 22, 2022, it is time to make a plan on how to make a difference.  

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