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Agrifood Upcycling: A Sustainable Path Forward

The modern food system is characterized by an alarming amount of waste, which not only squanders precious resources but also exacerbates environmental issues. Agrifood upcycling is emerging as a viable solution to this problem, turning food by-products or misshapen produce into valuable food ingredients, thus promoting a circular economy within the food and beverage sector.

A remarkable example of agrifood upcycling is the recent certification of CP Kelco’s Nutrava Citrus Fiber as an upcycled ingredient by the Upcycled Food Association, marking a significant step towards sustainability in the industry​.

Tackling Food Waste through Upcycling

CP Kelco, a global leader in nature-based ingredient solutions, ventured into the realm of upcycling with its innovative Nutrava Citrus Fiber, derived from spent citrus peels, a common by-product of the juice industry. This initiative, aligned with the company's zero-waste philosophy, not only reduces waste but also repurposes it into functional food ingredients. The Upcycled Food Association's certification of Nutrava Citrus Fiber underscores its commitment to reducing food waste and promoting environmental sustainability.

Advancing Towards a Circular Economy

Agrifood upcycling is a cornerstone for transitioning to a circular economy, which is inherently more sustainable than the traditional linear model of production and consumption. The process of upcycling redirects food by-products from landfills back into the food supply chain, thus conserving resources and reducing the environmental footprint of the food and beverage industry​.

Nutritional and Functional Benefits

The upcycled Nutrava Citrus Fiber is a versatile ingredient offering numerous functional benefits including emulsion stability, viscosity, mouthfeel enhancement, and water-holding capacity. It can replace or reduce the use of traditional ingredients like emulsifiers and stabilizers, thereby aiding in clearer labeling and product transparency. Moreover, Nutrava Citrus Fiber supports dietary fiber intake, a crucial aspect of human nutrition, showcasing how upcycling can also contribute to enhancing the nutritional profile of food products​​.

Consumer Acceptance and Industry Adoption

The increased interest in upcycling within the Food & Beverage industry signifies a notable shift towards sustainability. The certification of Nutrava Citrus Fiber is a testament to the growing recognition of upcycling's potential to tackle food waste, reduce environmental impact, and contribute to a more sustainable food system. The journey of Nutrava Citrus Fiber from a by-product of the juice industry to an Upcycled Certified ingredient exemplifies the industry's capability and willingness to innovate towards sustainability, which is likely to resonate well with environmentally conscious consumers and further drive the adoption of upcycled ingredients.

Economic Viability and Sustainability Through Upcycling

The potential for agrifood upcycling extends beyond waste reduction. It’s a gateway to enhancing the sustainability credentials and the unit economics of alternative proteins. Currently, many startups leveraging precision fermentation to produce high-value ingredients from microbes are already utilizing less water and agricultural land compared to traditional methods. Yet, the common practice of feeding these microbes with corn sugar poses an environmental challenge. The interest is growing towards more sustainable feedstocks upcycled from agricultural side streams like sugar bagasse or even fermentation systems utilizing carbon dioxide instead of sugar as a carbon source​.

Moreover, a considerable portion of the biomass from high-volume crops in North America is not utilized for human consumption or other industrial uses but ends up in landfills, animal feed, or incinerators. These side streams often contain valuable proteins, fibers, and fermentable sugars that could serve as feedstocks for precision fermentation, directly utilized in human foods, or used in cell culture media for cultivated meat or microbial fermentation​.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

The cost benefits of agrifood upcycling are manifold. Utilizing ag-side streams could reduce the reliance on more expensive or environmentally taxing feedstocks. For instance, upcycling sugarcane bagasse, corn stover, brewers’ spent grains, and other side streams can serve as sources of fermentable sugars or high-value food ingredients, potentially reducing production costs. However, the technical challenges and high costs associated with the pre-treatment and processing of these side streams may remain roadblocks to commercialization, necessitating further innovation and investment in this domain.


The certification of Nutrava Citrus Fiber by the Upcycled Food Association is a pioneering step that highlights the importance of agrifood upcycling in transitioning towards a more sustainable and circular food system. Through initiatives like these, the food and beverage industry can significantly mitigate its environmental impact, fulfill consumer demand for sustainable products, and contribute to global sustainability goals.


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