Would you pay more for wasted food?

Press/Media: Expert Comment


As the saying goes, one man’s trash 
is another man’s treasure. Last 
week, one of the world’s richest 
companies, Amazon, announced 
it had invested in new Canadian 
start-up Genecis Bioindustries – which has 
found a way to convert food waste into a 
biodegradable alternative to conventional 
This deal will not only provide Amazon 
customers with the option to purchase 
products that use biodegradable and 
recyclable packaging, but will contribute to 
its $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund to achieve 
net-zero carbon by 2040.
It is not the only company seeing the 
potential for repurposing waste – according 
to the latest Future Market Insights (2022), 
the global food waste market size is valued at 
$53 billion and growing.
The UK alone produces around 9.5 million 
tonnes of food waste (2018, WRAP) leading 
many food businesses to focus on how to 
drive such efficiencies within their supply 
United Nations Sustainable Development 
Goals are encouraging more firms to 
reduce waste, use recycling/upcycling and 
redistribution – including Goal 12, which 
seeks to halve per capita food waste and 
reduce food loss by 2030.
It’s an ambitious aim, but it has increased 
focus on innovation activity within food 
businesses – to assess their food waste, 
how it is currently disposed of and whether 
something could be done with it to add value 
and/or potentially deliver a new revenue 
stream for the business.
The upcycling of food, means “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” (Upcycled Food 
Association, 2020).
Food Upcycling is not in of itself a new 
concept but as a result we are witnessing 
the introduction of new technologies and 
processes being used to tackle the challenge 
of food waste.
For example, Food Navigator recently 
reported how a Danish food tech startup was implementing new controlled 
fermentation techniques by processing 
ingredients in bioreactors to produce organic 
flavour enhancers.
This resulted in the production of a 
fermented sauce which is made using spent 
chickens (those at the end of their egg laying 
cycle) combined with koji and barely grain, 
to provide the necessary fungus for the 
fermentation to take place.
Another example includes the use of 
brewing technology for the processing of fats 
and oils. Funded by the Good Food Institute 
(GFI), university researchers are using 
discarded crops like corn husks to create gas 
which is then used to feed microbes within 
the fermentation process, resulting in the 
production of lipids.
While the use of such technologies requires 
a substantial investment of capital, the 
concept of food upcycling should not be 
Over the past year, Ulster University 
Business School (UUBS) and Southern 
Regional College have been working in 
collaboration with several local food 
businesses on a Connected NI project to 
determine whether food waste could be 
Working alongside Whites Oats, Long 
Meadow Cider, Simply Fruit, Baladi Foods, 
Roy Lyttle Ltd and Early Days, the UUBS MSc 
Food Design and Innovation and the BSc 
Consumer Management and Food Innovation 
students were tasked to develop a nutritious 
and affordable plant-based snack product for 
This resulted in a range of new product 
concepts, including fruit butter using 
discarded peels, vegan meringues and mayo 
using the aquafaba waste, crackers using oat 
bran waste and vegetable wraps using the 
tops and tails cut from leeks.
This bank of product concepts is currently 
going through a feasibility study within Early 
Days Foods Ltd with initial interest from its 
current customers.
Brenda Kelleghan, Innovation & Technology 
Manager at Southern Regional College, 
stated: “This sustainable project was a 
perfect example of how collaboration 
between industry, academia and students 
can work together and create innovative 
solutions, supporting our local food and 
drinks industry.
“The project has yielded excellent 
results for all partners involved and the 
development of zero value waste products 
from each of the companies has helped 
them to identify new profitable 
While it is vital for companies in this FMCG 
market to keep abreast of key trends like 
sustainability and understand how they may 
impact on their business, it is also important 
to keep the consumer at the forefront of your 
mind as their acceptance and willingness 
to buy upcycled food products remains 
A recent Mintel report on Sustainability in 
Food UK (2023) highlighted that “46 per cent 
of those that buy sustainable food/drink state 
that they would prefer a more sustainable, 
synthetically produced food product over a less 
sustainable naturally produced one”.
In addition, those that displayed a keen 
interest in sustainability were likely to be 
more open to the use of novel ingredients.
Such findings give rise to possible 
consumer acceptance of upcycled food 
products but may not be enough on its own 
to secure success as with any new food 
product it must also deliver on flavour and 
price. For further enquiries about the services 
and facilities available at UUBS to support 
the food and drink industry please contact l.hollywood@ulster.ac.uk 

Period9 Mar 2023

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleWould you pay more for wasted food?
    Degree of recognitionRegional
    Media name/outletFarm Week
    Media typePrint
    Duration/Length/Size800 words
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Producer/AuthorDr L Hollywood
    PersonsLynsey Elizabeth Hollywood