Del Monte Foods, one of the largest canned and processed foods producers in the U.S., has launched the industry’s first canned green beans products that are Upcycled Certified by the Upcycled Food Association (UFA).
UFA is a nonprofit focused on preventing food waste and providing the world’s only third-party certification program for upcycled food ingredients and products. The Association defines Upcycled Foods as those that “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.”
The Walnut Creek, a California-based company, noted that thanks to these two products, it redirected about 600,000 pounds of surplus green beans last year.
“Some of our most exciting Upcycled Certified products are from Del Monte Foods — because they are so recognizable by the average consumer,” said Turner Wyatt, CEO and co-founder of the Upcycled Food Association. “When people hear the term ‘upcycled,’ they often think the product is going to be something they have never tried before. Nope. These are the green beans we have been eating our whole lives. The only difference is that by choosing the Upcycled Certified ones, consumers are actively preventing food waste.”
UFA is a member-based organization that was founded in 2019 by upcycled food pioneers. In 2020, its cross-sectoral stakeholders came up with the official definition of “upcycled food” in partnership with representatives from Harvard University, Drexel University, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, and ReFED. Today its membership includes companies and institutions from across 20 countries.
Some of the food products that UFA has certified thus far are Bevea Coffee & Cascara, Chia Smash, Shameless Pets, Imperfect Foods, and Take Two.
With the Upcycled Certification, UFA aims to set a rigorous standard that is comparable to precedents such as Organic, Non-GMO, Regenerative and Fair Trade that have become trusted labels by consumers. Its committee includes international experts in the areas of agriculture, food purchasing and systems, sustainability, nutrition, and retail.
This waste also extends to associated water, labor, energy, and nutritional value that is lost during food sourcing and production.
“In the United States alone, ReFED, a leading food waste research organization, estimates that 62.5 million tons of food are lost annually,” noted the report. This is equivalent to “28% of agricultural land, which accounts for roughly 8% of total greenhouse emissions. Put in other terms, if food waste were measured as a country, it would be the third-worst greenhouse gas offender after the U.S. and China.”
Examples of wasted ingredients include tens of billions of pounds of brewers’ “spent” grain in the U.S., nutritious soy created in the making of tofu and non-dairy milk, fruit and vegetable pressings left from juice production, antioxidant-rich coffee, and cacao plant fruits that are discarded during the production and many other byproducts that are wasted in food processing.
UFA seeks to close the loop by motivating the food industry to do more with less by using and marketing some of these ingredients for “best” use and providing an official certification for those.
“As the climate crisis only continues to intensify, we as food producers have an imperative to embrace solutions like upcycling and to educate consumers on using their daily decisions to drive this change,” said the authors of the report. “Together, we can disrupt the old ways and forge a new path to create a better, more resilient food system for all.”