Food made from waste ingredients


Would you eat rescued relish or recycled brewing grains? According to a study by Drexel University, many consumers may be willing to buy and consume foods made from discarded ingredients.
Photo credit, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Over one-third of the food we produce is wasted, often during the manufacturing process due to the fact it does not meet the aesthetic standards to be sold in a grocery store. Three Drexel professors led a study which looked at using value-added surplus products (VASPs) — made from surplus ingredients — to create new foods and help food shortages. But they would only help the environment if researchers could establish whether consumers would accept and embrace them. As a result, they studied how consumers reacted to three different cues: product description, label and benefit (to self or others).

“There is an economic, environmental and cultural argument for keeping food, when possible, as food and not trash,” said Jonathan Deutsch, PhD professor in the Center for Food and Hospitality Management. “Converting surplus foods into value-added products will feed people, create opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and lower the environmental impact of wasted resources.”

Firstly, the researchers presented the participants with three food categories: conventional, organic and value-added surplus food. VASPs were perceived to be more helpful to the environment than conventional foods, but still ranked below organic foods. Therefore, the scientists found that participants were aware of the fact that VASPs fell into a different category to organic and conventional foods, and they were not discriminated against.

Nine product labels were then used to brand value-added surplus products: upcycled, recycled, upscaled, rescaled, reprocessed, reclaimed, up-processed, resorted and rescued. Upcycled was deemed to be the most popular way to market the product, followed by reprocessed.

The final study examined whether benefits to self or to others influenced consumers’ perceptions of value-added foods. The results showed that participants were aware that consuming VASPs would create greater benefits to others than themselves, such as the environment.

“Value-added surplus foods may be perceived closer to organic foods as a category, encouraging the possibility of promoting such foods as a new category offering benefits to society,” said Rajneesh Suri, PhD, professor in the LeBow College of Business. “Depending upon how you communicate such products, they might also be able to fetch a price premium, like those afforded to organic foods.”

Overall, the studies suggest there is a potential for VASPs to become a new food category in the future, as long as they are marketed in the correct way. The study found that consumers not only accepted these products, but they may even prefer them. This could benefit retailers creating products in this category and help alleviate the global food crisis.

Photo credit, U.S. Department of Agriculture