Don’t waste food. Upcycle it, and make money in the process.
That is what tech consultancy firm Practical Innovation, led by CEO Tal Leizer and based in the Shefayim area in central Israel, is all about. Upcycling, or the upgrading of useless or unwanted items into higher-value products, is becoming an important trend in the food industry, said Leizer.
“Each year, about 2.9 trillion pounds of food is wasted,” she said by phone. That’s a lot of missed opportunity, she pointed out.
Most companies, she said, only think about either how to dispose of the waste more cheaply or how to produce less waste in the first place.
“We’re saying take this waste, and instead of paying someone to take it off your shoulders, let’s build a completely new category from this waste.”
Leizer’s company has recently developed a new upcycling system for companies that seek to turn a profit while helping address the global food waste problem.
Practical Innovation’s new service assesses a company’s supply chain, evaluates the extent of annual waste and what is being done with it, and then offers a way to develop new food and beverage products out of cast-off items, redirecting food waste into a profitable product.
In one example of this transformation, Practical Innovation partnered with the Israeli startup Wine Water Ltd. to create the alcohol-free, sugar-free, O.Vine wine water last year.
“This is a product that is completely manufactured from waste,” said Leizer.
Using leftover grape skins and seeds that are a byproduct of the winemaking process, they were able to extract the flavor of wine without its “bad things” — sugar and alcohol.
“It’s very light, it’s very fruity and it’s a completely new category in the beverage industry,” she said. The product won first prize for Best New Water Concept at the Evian Water Conference last fall and is now selling in the US.
Leizer estimated that Practical Innovations has already saved Wine Water close to 2 million euros in waste disposal costs, and — much more notably — the new beverage has brought the company close to 50 million euros in profit.
“So it’s good for the environment, since the waste is not going to the garbage, and it’s great for the company as it’s creating new growth from waste.”
Leizer said she is currently working on similar upcycling initiatives in Singapore and in the US, the latter of which is set to launch in September, though she wouldn’t disclose details.
This green approach to product development, she believes, is going to keep growing over the next few years.
“Waste is very profitable,” she said. “And companies now understand that profit made from product that is a non-raw material — just the waste — can really only help their bottom line.”