Flour milled from discarded coffee fruit. Chips made from juice pulp. Vodka distilled from strawberries that nobody seems to want.
At one point not so long ago, such waste-based products were novelties for the Whole Foods set. But in the past three years, there’s been an explosion in the number of start-ups making products from food waste, according to a new industry census by the nonprofit coalition ReFED.
The report, which was released Tuesday and tracks a number of trends across the food-waste diversion industry, found that only 11 such companies existed in 2011. By 2013, that number had doubled, and ReFED now logs 64 established companies selling ugly-fruit jam, stale-bread beer, and other “upcycled” food products.
The companies have diverted thousands of pounds of food waste from landfills, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. They’ve also become a model for larger, multinational food companies, which are starting to realize that upcycling peels and piths can be good business.