A Renewed Life for Food Waste [GreenGut Weekly Find, 11/13]
Renewal Mill is unlocking the potential of upcycling ♻ nutritious -- but often overlooked -- food byproducts
Happy Friday, fellow nerds! 👋🏻 In this week’s GreenGut Weekly Find, we’re going back to the subject of food waste — and taking a look at one company that’s getting truly inventive with the byproducts most of us never think about.
They’re called Renewal Mill, and they’re transforming the cast-offs of the soy milk industry into tasty, nutrient-dense ingredients and snacks. 🍪
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Redeeming Soy Milk’s Messy (and Wasteful) Secret
Have you ever thought about what happens to the leftovers after soybeans have been turned into soy milk (and tofu)?
Claire Schlemme and Caroline Cotto have, and that’s why they co-founded Renewal Mill.
It didn’t actually start with soy, though. The first inklings of the idea came to Claire while she was running an organic juice 🧃 company. As anyone who juices at home knows, the process leaves behind pulp. Scale that up to business level, and it leaves behind a lot of pulp. Seeing all that waste inspired Caroline to come up with a solution.
That’s where soybeans come into the picture. The soy milk industry creates tons (literally) of a byproduct called okara. It’s basically all the bits of the soybean that aren’t soluble and get left behind. 🥛
It’s not without its merits; okara has plenty of nutrition, including healthy soy protein. Where most people would see a useless pile of leftover fibers, Renewal Mill sees a largely untapped opportunity to bring nutrient-dense food to the masses.
Bake For Your Health
The company’s first facility is in Oakland, CA is turning out a range of okara products that are already a hit with customers:
Organic okara flour
Dark chocolate brownie mix
Vegan chocolate chip cookies 🍪 (made with okara flour!)
But it’s not going to stop there. There are plenty of other sectors within the food industry generating nutritious by products with potential to be upcycled into ingredients and packaged goods. ♻
Take the oat milk craze, for example. In fact, oats are next on the Renewal Mill radar. And there’s really no end to the possibilities. Through product research and development, Claire and Caroline are poised to be warriors in the fight against waste across the food system. 🗑
(And, not so incidentally, turning okara into tasty products means that it’s not getting siphoned off into the factory farming system, where it’s sometimes used in animal feed. 🐷)
Why Upcycled Food Matters
Claire’s mission with Renewal Mill is to keep “high-quality ingredients” and “valuable nutrition” in the food system. Other companies—like Pulp Pantry and Tia Lupita Foods—are getting on board by incorporating upcycled Renewal Mill ingredients into their products.
It’s a win-win situation for all involved. Upcycling gives companies across the food industry smarter, more environmentally friendly options 🌎 for offloading their byproducts—and it’s turning into a lucrative market of its own. The upcycled food industry was worth $46.7 billion in 2019 and is expected to continue growing in the coming years. 📈
But it’s more than just a way to make money. Companies like Renewal Mill are becoming essential as more plant-based 🌿 products appears on the market. The food system already had plenty of waste in the form of discarded edible food, and making new packaged goods means more waste in the form of byproducts. To move toward a zero-waste future, companies need to continue figuring out ways to upcycle the edible and beneficially utilize the rest.
I’m adding Renewal Mill to my mental list of Companies Fighting Food Waste (along with I Am Grounded!). Keeping food in the food system is becoming an even bigger deal for me the more I learn about just how much waste is going on. There will be more about this in future issues and on upcoming podcast episodes — so stay tuned!
Are you upcycling food through your company—or at home? Would love to hear from you! 👇🏻👇🏻