Reducing Food Waste by Extracting Value from Co-Products

According to a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), more than 1.6 billion tons of food is wasted each year globally.

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By Maura Keller

Consider this: We live in a world that produces enough food to feed every person. Yet, according to a report by the United Nations, about 821 million people—one in nine—go to bed on an empty stomach every day. And yet, according to a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), more than 1.6 billion tons of food is wasted each year globally. Thankfully, researchers across the globe are turning their attention to what their countries and communities can do to offset this exponential food waste and the subsequent food insecurities facing millions of people around the world.

During IFT20 session 243, Pablo Juliano at CSIRO in Melbourne, Australia, discusses the food waste issue facing his country—and the innovative four-year strategic roadmap to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030. One key aspect of this strategy is exploring avenues to embrace Australian food manufacturers’ increase demand for plant-based ingredients, which are currently produced overseas and imported. Through the valorization of fruit and vegetable residues, which are typically discarded as waste in Australia, Juliano discusses engineering avenues that will change the way we deal with food by developing sustainable mechanisms to give people the nutrition they need, while at the same time reducing food waste.

CSIRO’s valorization initiatives will help Australia meet the market demand for fruit and vegetable ingredients, especially in the supplement and nutraceutical industries. By utilizing technologies such as thermal processing, extraction techniques for concentrates, microencapsulation with bioactives, and various drying platforms, manufacturers will be able to produce fruit and vegetable-based powders, purees, and snacks. Also, Juliano envisions increasing Australia’s effort in specialty ingredients, specifically embracing “farm-to-pharm” opportunities.

spent malt grains
Spent malt grains

Like Australia, embracing the idea of “zero waste” is the focus of the presentation by Patchanee Yasurin at Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand. As part of the Thailand 4.0 initiative, communities, universities, and government agencies are working together to unlock the country’s potential of transforming from a middle-income country to one that offers innovative, high-income opportunities.

Yasurin highlights the successful Baan Phetplerndin Project, funded by the Community Development Department with Thailand’s Ministry of Interior. Yasurin and her team worked with four provinces in Thailand to create 25 value-added products from 25 distinct communities. After gathering information from the communities, the team used an extensive R&D biotechnology process to develop high-value products. For example, some areas grow a lot of bananas and mangos but not all pass quality control due to discoloration. Normally, they would be discarded. After working with these communities, the project was able to develop snack food items in which the discoloration is not a problem.

Creating high valued-added products from processed food co-products is also top of mind for presenter Suvaluk Asavasanti at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Bangkok, Thailand. As Asavasanti explains, there is growth in demand for plant-based protein with tofu products increasing 6.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and soymilk increasing 15.5% CAGR between 2018 and 2023. The growth in soymilk and tofu production means that more co-products, including okara and tofu whey, are produced. Instead of discarding these co-products, Asavasanti explains that they make for high-value ingredients for other foods and beverages. For example, okara contains high protein and many phytochemicals, including isoflavones and genistein.

And while tofu and soybean waste extracts have proven beneficial in myriad applications, Bor-Sen Chiou at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working on extracting sugars and phenolic compounds from almond hulls to use as bioactive agents. Specifically, Chiou is interested in creating a natural sweetener from the nonpareil variety almond hull extract, which contains more than 10% fructose and 10% glucose. Considering more than 1.9 million tons of almond hulls are generated each year, with the majority being used as feed for farm animals, extracting these key elements will enable the full utilization of the hulls. During this presentation, Chiou examines the effect of time and temperature on the extraction behavior of sugar and phenolic compounds from the hulls, as well as the diffusion behavior of the soluble solids from the hulls.

Learn more about extracting high-value ingredients from fruit, vegetable, grain, and nut co-products by viewing this session in the SHIFT20 on-demand library.

Registration for SHIFT20 provides access to the on-demand library of sessions for a full year.

Maura Keller is a writer and editor based in Minneapolis, MN.

Kelly Hensel

Senior Digital Editor, IFT

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