A group of academic, non-profit and industry stakeholders defined “upcycled food” for the first time, setting the stage for food companies to identify their ingredients as helping to reduce food waste. A task force convened by the Upcycled Food Association included researchers from Harvard University and Drexel University, along with representatives from ReFED, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund and more.
The definition is:
“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.”
“It sounds obvious, but the process of arriving at the definition is just as important as the definition itself. This definition was created for the same reasons the Upcycled Food Association was created—to unify the industry, clarify the vision and serve as a center of gravity for the upcycled movement,” says Ben Gray, chief operations officer of Upcycled Food Association.
The Upcycled Food Association plans to use the definition as a foundation for a product certification program scheduled to launch later this year.
“Reducing food waste is the single greatest solution to climate change according to Project Drawdown,” adds Gray. “We want to give people the ability to participate in the solution every time they visit a grocery store. We envision a future in which many products in every aisle and around the perimeter proudly display the upcycled certification, giving consumers the opportunity to vote to reduce food waste with their dollars.”
A study from MATTSON has shown that more than half of consumers want to buy more upcycled foods. And, a 2017 study from Drexel University showed that consumers perceive environmental benefit associated with the world “upcycled,” similar to how they see “organic.”
“Upcycled food needs a clear definition in order to be meaningful and relevant,” says Dr. Jonathon Deutsch, co-author of the Drexel study and member of the Task Force.
Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and Task Force Member says, “Scaling up the use of upcycled foods offers a powerful opportunity to make our supply chain more efficient and resilient. This upcycled foods definition serves as a strong starting place to help businesses, consumers, and other users align around a common meaning and usage of the term. Further research can be done to identify and leverage policy incentives to support upcycled foods as a model to reduce food waste and support a more sustainable food system.”