Food waste and what to do with it is now one of the hospitality industry’s more prominent conversations these days. Some are turning it into fertilizer; others into renewable energy. But a team of researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) just one-upped everyone else by transforming unwanted leftovers into a boozy beverage.
Led by Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan and PhD student Chua Jian Yong, the team is using tofu byproduct to create a new alcoholic drink. Dubbed “Sachi” (which is Japanese for the word “bliss”), the beverage is a cross between white wine and saki, and contains some health benefits along with its “fruity” notes of flavor.
It’s not only a unique approach to using food byproducts, it’s also the first major step towards reducing tofu waste. Tofu may be one of the more healthy foods out there, but its production process creates a byproduct called whey, which pollutes the environment when the protein and soluble sugars in it deplete oxygen in waterways.
The team at NUS has already filed a patent for its sachi-making process, which involves adding sugar, malic acid, and yeast to the whey, which is then pasteurized. From there, the liquid is fermented to produce the boozy beverage. The entire process takes about three weeks.
Right now, sachi has a shelf life of about four months, but the team is researching ways to extend its life that don’t involve harmful preservatives. Health is, after all, one of the benefits of sachi the team is pushing: “It is the only alcoholic beverage that has isoflavones, which contribute to health benefits like bone health, heart health and cancer-prevention,” Liu said.
The team is currently looking for partners to bring the beverage public, though it may be a while before that happens.
In the meantime, they’re not the only ones creating boozy drinks out of unwanted food. Dogfish Head Brewery joined forces with Mario Batali and brewed a beer that uses unsellable produce from Batali’s Eataly restaurant. Overripe tomatoes, stale bread, and rotten grapefruit are all part of the mix. As it’s name suggests, wasteNOT Pruno is similar in style to prison wine, and it’s so far been a big success.
Then there’s Misadventure Vodka, a company currently turning baked goods into alcoholic drinks. That includes stale Twinkies. The California-based company’s main mission is to combine sustainability with hedonism, meaning you shouldn’t have to sacrifice a fun night in order to care more about the environment.
THE NUS team’s Sachi is definitely focuses on a more serious angle around sustainability. Still, once it becomes available, I’d bet the drink gets quite a reaction at bars and social gatherings, be it excitement or disgust. Either way, it should start a conversation—and an important one, at that. At the very least, you’ll have a pretty unique wine drink to serve with next year’s Thanksgiving Tofurkey.