Upcycling ingredients for a better product and a better Canada

Photo provided by CrushDynamics and Big Mountain Foods.

When it comes to sustainability in the food sector, many companies have been focused on reducing either inputs or outputs—using less water, using less energy, or reducing their GHG emissions. All are important efforts, but not the only areas where Canada’s plant-based companies can make an environmental difference.

For some, a reduction in food waste is one of the best starting points.

In April 2023, Big Mountain Foods and Crush Dynamics announced a partnership to incorporate upcycled ingredients into new plant-based foods. Together, the companies have developed Crush Dynamics’ Ruby Purée—a by-product from the wine sector—into an ingredient perfectly suited to Big Mountain Foods’ Lion’s Mane Mushroom Burger.

“Crush Dynamics offered us a unique solution to enhance our burger's appearance. Their ruby purée provided a rich colour that complemented the flavour profile of our burger, making it visually appealing to consumers,” Big Mountain Foods President Jasmine Byrne said. “We strive to use ingredients that are transparently labeled and sourced from local suppliers whenever possible. By partnering with Crush Dynamics, we were able to incorporate their upcycled ingredients into our burger, reinforcing our commitment to sustainable and locally sourced food.”

Big Mountain Foods isn’t alone in their commitment to sustainability. Crush Dynamics was founded on it, with upcycling ingredients a key part of their ingredient development. Taking the by-products of wine processing, Crush Dynamics upcycles grape skins and seeds into high-performance ingredients. The process reduces food waste, while also reducing the carbon footprint associated with the production and disposal of the by-products.

“We are committed to materially impacting the global issue of food waste by leveraging our patented upcycling technology,” Crush Dynamics CEO Kirk Moir said. “We plan to expand our operations to different wine regions globally as we grow demand. Fifteen million tonnes of grape ‘crush’ is discarded every year on a global basis, which not only represents a significant loss of valuable food resource, but also contributes materially to environmental degradation.”

Ensuring such upcycled ingredients fit the needs of food manufacturers requires a working partnership that brings the needs and expertise of both companies together. But with both Big Mountain Foods and Crush Dynamics having taken part in Protein Industries Canada projects in the past, neither is new to the idea of collaborative product creation.

Both consider it to be critical to the development process, particularly if a company is hoping to get a product to market quickly.

“The collaboration with Crush Dynamics played a crucial role in the development of the Lion's Mane Mushroom Burger,” Byrne said. “Crush Dynamics was highly responsive to our requests and worked closely with us to meet our specific needs. Their expertise and resources allowed us to scale up production efficiently, ensuring a timely market launch for our burger.”

Formulating Crush Dynamics’ Ruby Purée to suit Big Mountain Foods’ Lions Mane Mushroom Burger won’t be the end of either company’s work in developing and utilizing upcycled ingredients. With their potential to reduce food waste while aiding Canada’s GHG-reduction goals, upcycled ingredients can be a valuable tool in the plant-based sector’s sustainability efforts.