Of all of the initiatives we’ve heard about to minimize food waste, this one is probably the most delicious: upcycled ice cream. That’s right – upcycled. The iconic West Coast ice cream brand Salt & Straw has made five “upcycled” flavors for the month of June. These flavors all use some pure, fresh, and perfectly usable ingredients that would otherwise go to waste in the production process. The whole menu is “Upcycle Certified,” which means that at least 10 percent of the ingredients are foods that would have otherwise gone to waste.
In using these ingredients, Salt & Straw has saved more than 38,000 pounds of food products from the waste stream – and turned them into delicious ice cream.
“Companies are really working hard to change the way we think about what is waste in our food system,” said Tyler Malek, who co-founded Salt & Straw with his cousin Kim Malek. “You’re going to see it a lot in the next year or two.”
What is Upcycled Food?
According to the Upcycled Food Association, upcycled foods are officially defined as foods that use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment. This could include today’s perfectly delicious bread or donuts that grocery store can’t sell tomorrow as fresh. Or the pulp left over from nut, oat, or soy milk. Or even the whey left over from yogurt making.
Could all of those foods somehow become delicious ice cream? Let’s take a look.
Day-Old Bread Pudding & Chocolate Ganache
The Day-Old Bread Pudding and Chocolate Ganache flavor features – what else? – day-old bread, used to make bread pudding. The bread is from a Portland, Oregon non-profit called Urban Gleaners. Urban Gleaners rescues fresh, unsold food, including day-old breads, and uses it to feed more than 8,000 people every week. Salt & Straw makes the bread into delicious bread pudding and the resulting product is incredibly decadent – and fresh.
Cacao Pulp & Chocolate Stracciatella Gelato
The Cacao Pulp & Chocolate Stracciatella Gelato uses cacao pulp from a company called Blue Stripes. Blue Stripes uses the whole cacao fruit – shell, fruit, and beans – to bring out the benefits of this “superfood.” According to Blue Stripes, most chocolate companies discard up to 70% of the cacao fruit once they harvest the beans to make chocolate. Blue Stripes uses 100% of the cacao fruit to keep a focus on a low-waste and sustainable approach to cacao. This gelato is a chocolate-lovers dream, with a deep nutty flavor that you won’t find in other chocolates.
Lemon Curd & Whey
The Lemon Curd & Whey flavor uses whey, a co-product of Greek-style yogurt production. Yogurt-makers strain the yogurt to remove liquid whey and create a thick, creamy yogurt product. But every one cup of yogurt produces two to three cups of liquid whey – most of which gets discarded. (And why? Whey is actually packed with probiotics, vitamins and minerals.) The Lemon Curd & Whey flavor uses whey from the Spare Food Company, a New York company that rescues whey in partnership with White Moustache yogurt in Brooklyn. For the ice cream, said Malek, the Salt & Straw team uses a lemon curd recipe, but replaces about 80 percent of the lemon juice with the whey.
Malted Chocolate Barley Milk
The Malted Chocolate Barley Milk flavor uses EverPro®, a barley rice protein that meets Upcycled Certified menu requirements. (This is also the first allergen-free Salt & Straw variety beyond a sorbet – and it’s vegan.) EverPro is the brainchild of AB InBev’s EverGrain®, a sustainable ingredient business that creates high quality plant protein by upcycling brewer’s spent grain. The brewer’s spent grain is a byproduct of the brewing process that would otherwise have gone to waste. This malted ice cream flavor is tangy and malt-y with a definite umami flavor that will leave you wanting more.
Salted Caramel & Okara Cupcakes
The Salted Caramel & Okara Cupcake flavor uses a cupcake mix made by Renewal Mill. Renewal Mill dries and mills the byproducts of plant-based milk production (i.e. soybean pulp and oat pulp). It then takes the milled product to make nutritious grain-free flour alternatives. Next, it packages those ingredients in a line of “just add oil & water” baking mixes. Salt & Straw uses the okara flour (a low-carb, keto-friendly flour made from the pulp leftover from soymilk processing) to make the “cupcake” part of this tasty salted caramel ice cream. This flavor is also vegan. (“I think it’s one of the coolest flavors we’ve ever made,” said Malek.)
Malek says he hopes that this month’s “upcycled” flavors will bring more attention to the upcycled food movement.
“It’s our job to talk about this and tell people, by changing your food eating or looking for this logo in shopping, you can really make an impact,” he said.