Upcycled Food Association

We had the pleasure of speaking with Turner Wyatt, CEO of Upcycled Food Association, about all things Upcycling and how TBJ Gourmet plays a role in curbing food waste as well as giving back to those in need!

1. What are the main goals of this organization?

The Upcycled Food Association is a nonprofit dedicated to reducing food waste by growing the upcycled food economy. We envision a food system where all food reaches its highest and best use. Through consumer education, research, marketing strategy, and policy advocacy, we seek to build a more interconnected and effective upcycled food industry, and raise awareness about upcycled foods among consumers.

2. What are TBJ Gourmet and Michael Oraschewsky's role in the Upcycled Food Association?

When I was transitioning out of my last job as Executive Director of Denver Food Rescue, I knew I wanted to explore consumer driven solutions to food waste. I started reaching out to upcycled food entrepreneurs to learn more about the industry, and Mike Oraschewsky was one of the first people I spoke with. Over the months through my conversations with various companies we started noticing a pattern that all upcycled food businesses were facing basically the same obstacles: regulatory challenges, messaging barriers, lack of infrastructure, etc. TBJ Gourmet and eight other businesses made the decision to come together to co-found the Upcycled Food Association. Since our formation in October 2019, we have already grown to about 50 Members! Mike serves as a Board Treasurer, and we're lucky to have him.

3. Where do you see upcycled products in the future marketplace and how has the response been thus far from the public about the importance of supporting upcycled products?

Most consumers want to buy more upcycled food; about 60% in fact. This is staggeringly high considering there has been virtually no widespread marketing strategy for upcycled food. I think this high demand is caused by how much regular people tend to care about food waste: about 95% of people want to reduce food waste in their own lives. Upcycled food puts the power to protect the environment in the hands of these people. And it really is a huge benefit to the environment. According to Project Drawdown, reducing food waste is the third most effective solution to climate change out of all. Ahead of things like regenerative agriculture, even ahead of solar energy!

4. What is the key message you want to deliver to the consumer about upcycling and why they should be looking for these products when they shop?

Luckily, we don't have to convince people that upcycled food is good, nor that reducing food waste is important. There's an inherent human quality that makes us want to not waste food, and our Members' products speak for themselves: they're delicious! But I'm not just making this up: people really do naturally care about this stuff. In 2017 our friends at Drexel University found that people have a greater positive association with regard to benefit to the environment with the word 'upcycled' than the word 'organic.'

5. How does a company like TBJ Gourmet upcycle their products?

TBJ Gourmet has identified a gap in our food system, where bacon ends and pieces are discarded simply because they don't meet some arbitrary cosmetic standard. That's essentially what this movement is about: recognizing the true value in food that was there all along. Upcycling food is about fully utilizing our resources, and that's something everyone agrees is important.

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