Elly Truesdell, right, with entrepreneurs Mark Ramadan and Scott Norton from Sir Kensington's.Getting produce from the farm to your table eats up 10% of the U.S. energy budget and 80% of all freshwater consumed in the U.S. — yet 40% of the food in this country is never eaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Scraps, trimmings, imperfect produce and other by products often end up in landfills — unless an innovative entrepreneur steps up to find a use for them, that is.
Elly Truesdell, a forager for Whole Foods Market, has made it her mission to stock our shelves with products from companies that do just that. “These entrepreneurs truly care about the environment,” says Elly. “What’s amazing is that while they were imagining ways to fight food waste, they also managed to create cool new products.” Here are five of Elly's favorite companies that have discovered new ways to keep food out of landfills:
A can of chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans) holds more potential than just the beans. The soupy liquid that most of us just pour down the drain — officially called aquafaba — has been used by the vegan community as an egg replacement for years. But when a staff member at the specialty condiment company Sir Kensington's spotted a blog post about it last year, it changed everything. The company learned that, when combined with the kelp Kombu, aquafaba creates an eggless mayo that tastes like classic. “Elly actually connected us with Ithaca Hummus, a manufacturer in upstate New York,” says Laura Villevielle, Director of Research and Development for Sir Kensington. “They were cooking their chickpeas in-house and pouring the liquid down the drain since they had no use for it." Together, the two companies created the first food-safe supply chain to save and repurpose the aquafaba. The result? Fabanaise!
There are hundreds of millions of watermelons that go to waste every year because they are imperfect, and it was this fact that caught co-founder Harlan Berger's attention years ago. Luckily, he shared his bafflement with the right woman, co-founder Jody Levy, and together the two came up with a solution: cold press what’s inside the unsightly melons. "We work with growers around America to buy the 'ugly' watermelons that no one wants because they're sunburned, oddly shaped, discolored, or otherwise imperfect," Levy says. Not only are they finding a home for imperfect melons, but they then send their production waste from the manufacturing facilities to local farms to become livestock feed.
Everyone fits in somewhere, and, for ugly produce, that home is Misfit Juicery. "We got started when we found four crates of ugly misshapen peaches at our college's farmer's market. We hitched a ride on a golf cart back to Phil's house and spent about eight hours juicing," explains co-founders Phil Wong and Ann Yang. Their afternoon adventure turned into a business whose cold-pressed juices are now made up of 70 to 80 percent rejected food sourced from farmers and distributors (the other 20 to 30 percent is items that don't have much of a misfit market, like ginger and turmeric).
Yogurt production has a delicious secret. After yogurt is strained, you're left with an acidic liquid — whey — which most companies discard. The thing is, while whey may be acidic, it’s drinkable and many people sip it to support digestion or for post-workout hydration. “When we started the company we made smaller batches of yogurt, so we would just drink the whey ourselves, or give it to the dog just to use it all up,” says company founder Homa Dashtaki. “Now, we’re swimming in it, so we’ve had to get more creative.” In addition to selling yogurt, White Moustache now also bottles their whey in flavors like lime and ginger. At Thanksgiving, you can find the whey sold in bulk at select Whole Foods Market stores for brining holiday turkeys, which is an inventive way to tenderize and flavor the meat. "I never thought of it as using waste, just as maximizing what's in front of me," Dashtaki says.
Eco Olea came to the food waste movement thanks to a happy accident. Israeli olive oil producer Avner Talmon was trying to adjust a hose that pumped wastewater to a holding tank when the hose tore open and sprayed all over him, leaving his skin soft and smooth. After this “aha” moment, Talmon and his team launched a skincare line, and later, developed olive-based vinegar made from the residue from olive presses. The team used the vinegar as a base for EcoOlea, their eco-friendly cleaning line that includes an all-purpose spray, dish liquid and dishwasher gel.
Head to wholefoodsmarket.com/stores to find your nearest Whole Foods Market. Not all products available in all stores.