ReGrained is a San Francisco-based brand that turns fighting food waste into a lifestyle. We’re tackling an overlooked aspect of the ecosystem--the beer industry. ReGrained harvests the “spent” grain from craft breweries and turning it into a high protein, high fiber, and high impact source of nutrition. We’re closing a nutrient loop, and have already launched two flavors within product line (Honey Almond IPA and Coffee Stout healthy snack bars). We’re here on OpenIDEO to raise the bar.
Process and partnerships
A key challenge in the practice that we’ve coined “Food Waste Alchemy” surrounds the processing technology required to stabilize potential ingredients. You’ll see this challenge outlined in other submissions to this competition. In general, there is some exciting work being done in this area, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture's efforts are perhaps the most unsung.
ReGrained has partnered with an arm of the USDA, which boasts some of the world’s leading experts on the kinds of processing technology food-waste-to-value ventures require to scale. The technology that we are developing will be energy efficient and specifically catered to suit the urban environment. Ultimately, it will enable us to launch our “ReGrainery,” a model with global potential.
In the interim, our intention is to use the ReGrained brand as a platform to promote the food waste alchemy movement. We will continue to innovate around our own branded line of products, but also use our talents for taste-making to grow our nascent industry. On one end, we will develop products that feature "brand comrades," many of which we already have existing relationships with. For example, we can incorporate upcycled bananas, coffee flour, cacao husks, okara, and more into our product lines. On another end, we can create ReGrained products for breweries, which would open us up to new customer segments.
Next Steps: Beyond the Bar
Let's return to today's efforts—tackling food waste from beer at scale. ReGrained’s current priority is to bring a new ingredient to market: something we call, Beer Flour. At the moment, we produce ReGrained Beer Flour at a pilot scale and are actively prototyping its applications in our own test-kitchens and in those of our key partners. This video showcases some early efforts and testimonials.
At scale, ReGrained Flour will be sold as a fully-branded product, leveraging the goodwill and trust created by our bars, and also as a B2B play. We intend to enter the supply chain of other food manufacturers, providing them a new, delicious, cost-effective, and sustainable ingredient.
Movement Building Activities
We call our process “food waste alchemy” because it seems to conjure up healthy, sustainable food from nothing. But no food waste alchemist is worth their weight in gold without a crew. That’s why it’s ReGrained’s goal to help provide the infrastructure and tools to support the a much broader movement.
We’ve seen through this challenge that there's no shortage of ideas and willpower to get moving on food waste reduction efforts. We’ve also seen through our work with various food waste fighting brands and recently with our partnership with the USDA that coming up with kitchen space, technologies, and distribution channels for new value-added products can be prohibitively expensive. Whether it’s making beer from leftover bread or making delicious muffins from vegetable scraps, every food waste fighting startup needs the same things: access to space, technologies to test new processes (R&D), steady suppliers, and a diverse array of financial funding (grants and equity from private and public sources). So, to build a more robust movement and to ensure that we’re not just seen as a niche industry but a nascent industry in the midst of a growth spurt, we plan to work across sectors to develop Food Waste Alchemy Centers (FWACs).
Food Waste Alchemy Centers (FWACs) will be a cross between startup incubators and shared commercial kitchens, and could be set up regionally as food-waste-fighting product-innovation engines. Beyond equipment, the FWACs will provide entrepreneurs with coaching, and resources to grow. For example, distribution is a key challenge for food entrepreneurs that could be eased by FWAC expertise.
Regional FWACs should be located by proximity to the largest food waste generators, such as food terminals or large farms. FWACs could leverage emerging Food Waste marketplaces to find supply, which could be ferried to them by Food Waste distributors. Knowing that they have the equipment required to bring products to market that were previously only afforded by deep pockets, entrepreneurs would partner with the FWAC to execute their ideas.
The goal will be for FWACs to take in any kind of food waste and process it based on different tiers of value prioritization. To maximize “upcycled” value for our food system, products that provide human nutrition would take priority, followed by products that feed animals, followed by an internal composting operation to transform the rest into soil and natural gas (which could power the FWAC, in combination with solar). We see ReGrained as a convener in all this, facilitating partnerships to build and then help manage the FWACs. That's the back-of-the-napkin sketch of our long-term vision. What do you think?
So, to sum up our blueprint, our bars are our battering ram (a way to shape consumer preferences for edible upcycled foods), Beer Flour will tap beer waste at scale, and the Food Waste Alchemy Centers are the tides to lift all our industry’s boats.