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Position Paper Upcycled Food & Ingredients

A colloborative effort to further strenghten the Upcycling ecosystem

Curious about the world of Upcycled Food & Ingredients? Here’s how to navigate your way

Welcome to this interactive webpage about upcycled food and ingredients, created through the collaboration of a diverse group of stakeholders from within and outside the Upcycling Community. In this paper, you will find clear and focused visions and ambitions for the current and future market of upcycled food and ingredients. We also offer reflective analyses on the barriers and opportunities for accelerating this market.

To make this position paper as easy to read as possible, we have divided the content in various ways.

  • Executive summary (short read): Understand in a quick read the main points and objectives of this Position Paper.
  • Business perspectives (long read): Clear and sharp visions and ambitions from business partners of the Upcycling Community about the current and future market of upcycled food and ingredients.
  • Ecosystem Insights (long read): Reflective analyses on the barriers and opportunities for accelerating the market for upcycled food and ingredients.
  • Tailored Content (short read): We created a summary per target audience. Explore the options in the drop-down menu below and choose your field of preference to read your personalised summary.

We created a summary just for you!

Please select your field from the drop-down menu below for more personalised insights and reading guidance.


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Executive summary

Taking upcycled food from niche to normal

This paper was conceived with one mission in mind: to take upcycled food from niche to normal. It is the result of collaboration between stakeholders across the industry – both public and private – and other experts in the field, who came together to share and allign their knowledge, visions and ambitions. Their backgrounds are varied, but they share a belief that upcycling food is a key to unlock significant value for both the industry and the planet. This paper aims to give the reader a better understanding of where the upcycling movement stands and make clear calls to action to guide those who want to get involved.

Upcycling food and ingredients are slowly gaining traction. Pioneering companies are ushering in a new era of innovation with products like nutritional chips made from vegetable scraps and protein-rich snacks produced using brewers’ spent grains. The steady growth in upcycled products shows industry leaders’ willingness to develop new technologies and strategies that can bring upcycling to the mass market. There are plenty of examples of how actors across the value chain are working together to make these foods more accessible and more appealing.

But there are obstacles in the way that need a collective approach of those pioneering companies. The benefits of upcycled food and ingredients are often not well-known by manufacturers. This is even more true at the consumer level. The lack of cohesive standards around upcycling complicates the task of communicating the value of upcycled foods. Facets of the legislative and regulatory backdrop like national and EU-wide goals to reduce food waste are supportive, but a stronger endorsement would be better. Addressing these challenges would go a long way toward getting more companies to feel that it’s worth investing time and money into this nascent market. 

The road to making upcycled foods a common item on store shelves is long and winding. By linking the right people together across the spheres of government, enterprise, advocacy and academia, we can make it a successful journey.  

Since the authors’ expertise lies primarily in Europe, the geographical scope of this paper will focus mainly on that region. But most of the insights are likely applicable worldwide when it comes to side streams in highly developed agrifood value chains. 

The Upcycling Community and Foodvalley want to inspire the key links in the agrifood value chain to get involved. We also want to show them how. Below, we give a brief overview of what each stakeholder can do to develop the market for upcycled food and ingredients to the point where it can be instrumental in meeting sustainability goals and become “good business”.

Core premises of this position paper
Upcycling higher volumes of food losses towards food and ingredients is a “must-do” environmental goal

By upcycling, the food industry can make optimal use of resources in a way that minimises the impact on the planet and promotes circularity.

Cross-sector collaboration is the key to unleashing the full potential of upcycling

Actors throughout the value chain – from producers to regulators – must work together to overcome existing barriers and make upcycling side streams in the agrifood sector a common practice. With this in mind, the Upcycling Community has charted a course toward making upcycling accessible, attractive and advantageous.

Upcycling food losses is also relevant for countries’ food security

Limiting reliance on external supply chains has taken on more urgency, fueled by events like the covid-19 pandemic, climate change and geopolitical crises. In the EU, authorities are calling for member states to be more “food self-sufficient” and to combat food waste. 

Goals of the Upcycling community

By 2030 – a milestone year for the global sustainability agenda – the Upcycling Community would like to facilitate progress in

  • The development of successful value propositions. Connecting food –and beverage makers across sectors and value chains with suppliers and producers of side streams and upcycled ingredients. The aim? Getting more upcycled food/ingredients into companies’ product portfolios. 
  • Raising widespread awareness of upcycled food & ingredients. Spreading awareness among authorities, consumers and B2C companies about the benefits of upcycled food. Central to this goal is aligning upcycling efforts with EU 2030 goals to lower food waste at both industry (-10%) and consumer (-30%) levels. * 
  • The development of supportive regulatory frameworks. Developing a regulatory foundation for upcycling practices that will help companies make credible claims about their products, and market them responsibly to consumers.