Upcycled Food Association CEO Envisions Massive Industry Growth

upcycled foods, imperfect produce, five red apples on white surface

Upcycled food has become a $53 billion dollar market, growing faster than plant-based products. But what exactly is it? How does it prevent food waste and how will it impact businesses?

During the latest FI Live, The Food Institute sat down with Turner Wyatt, CEO of the Upcycled Food Association (UFA) to learn more about the future of upcycling and the number one challenge associated with it.

What is upcycled food?

By UFA’s definition, upcycled food must be made from and add value to something edible for human consumption that would have otherwise gone to waste. According to Wyatt, the addition of value is an essential component of the definition.

“What’s important about upcycling is that we want to add value to what was previously going to waste, to ensure that there’s an even lower chance of that food going to waste, [by] developing new supply chains for that food,” Wyatt explained.

What does the Upcycled Food Association do?

 The UFA has developed a certification program for upcycled foods, called Upcycled Certified.

“From the onset, we knew that we needed upcycled food to be able to prove that it was upcycled… in order to be considered upcycled,” Wyatt said. “That is part of the strategy in order to ensure that this is a trustworthy and rigorous industry in terms of actually providing the environmental impact we want to see.”

 The UFA is also committed to building a global network of businesses creating upcycled products. Wyatt believes such collaboration is essential.

 What’s the biggest challenge facing upcycled food?

According to Wyatt, consumer education is the greatest hurdle that the upcycled food industry must overcome, as less than 10% of consumers know what upcycled products are.

“The vast majority of people agree that food waste is bad, and the vast majority of people would also seek out more upcycled products if it was convenient to them,” Wyatt explained. “But how can they seek it out if they don’t know what it is?”

The Upcycled Certified program has only been around for about a year, but the UFA has already certified over 200 products and consumers should start seeing the logo on packaging—a crucial step forward in terms of getting the word out.

What does the future hold?

 The UFA envisions an upcycled product in every aisle of every grocery store and encourages businesses to seize the opportunity now, while it’s still early.

Wyatt put it plainly, “There’s a trillion dollars’ worth of food that gets wasted every year, how much of that trillion dollars is yours?”