This week, the Upcycled Food Association announced that it had opened the doors for anyone who wants to apply for certification.
This news marks the culmination of a year of steady progress for the organization, which is made up of a number of startups and larger companies creating products out of food waste that would have otherwise gone to the landfill.
Last May, the organization put out its official definition for the term “upcycled food:” “Upcycled foods 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.”
At the beginning of 2021, the group launched its certification program for upcycled foods, and this past April it showed off its new certification mark. And during the first half of this year, the group ran a pilot program with 15 members to work out the kinks for its certification process, resulting in companies like Regrained getting certification for its ingredient product.
Now, every company who wants to apply for UFA certification can do so.
For an industry that some market sizers have as big as $46.7 billion, why did it take so long to get serious about certification? While making something valuable out of discarded food outputs is a centuries-old practice, the rapidly growing interest by consumers and new companies positioning their product in recent years was a signal for the industry to get serious about creating an organization that could create a standard.
Retailers also see a bright future in upcycled food. Whole Foods named upcycling as one of the big trends for 2021, while Kroger, a supporter of the UFA, has been investing in young upcycled food brands. And, in the end, it’s this interest by the food retailers that may matter most as they will likely make compliance with UFA certification as one of the key requirements before getting into the store for any upcycled product.
The interest in upcycled food is also a part of a broader interest in companies up and down the food system in tackling the problem of food waste. The pandemic helped accelerate this interest as everyone saw entire crops go to waste, but the reality is rising costs of food products has made reducing food waste not only appealing to sustainability-oriented organizations, but also to the bottom-line focused types in big corporates at CPG, retail and restaurants.