Wonder of waste: Australia’s CSIRO and Fresh Select to upcycle surplus veg for powders and snacks
The collaboration is part of CSIRO’s ongoing project to upcycle vegetable waste from broccoli and carrot into high value food and supplement products. Food waste costs the Australian economy AU$20 billion (US$14.5bn) each year.
Based in Melbourne, Nutri V has so far developed six vegetable powders, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, spinach, beetroot and pumpkin, and an upcoming children snack using CSIRO’s technologies.
Nutri V is hoping to market the products on its online store early next year.
The firm will develop its own branded range of products, as well as supply ingredients to food manufacturers.
Less food waste
Raquel Said, operations and sales manager at Nutri V told NutraIngredients-Asia the firm was founded in 2019 to tackle the issue of food waste, at the same time help consumers eat healthier.
“Only about 80% of crops are harvested on the farm and send to retail, leaving about 20% behind because the size and appearance do not meet retail standards.”
“We wanted to turn that 20% of low value product or products that would have gone to waste into something with an enhanced nutritional profile, using innovative techniques into high value products.”
According to Said, Nutri V currently sources its vegetables directly from Fresh Select farms.
Fresh Select predominantly grows cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage across Australia.
Said added that the firm may consider expanding its sources in the future: “We also acknowledge that there is potentially a lot of food waste that happens in retail and in stores so that's definitely something that we'd really like to look into.”
The vegetables are first harvested, dehydrated and dried into a powder. According to Said, Nutri V uses the entire vegetable including the stems and leaves.
“It is important to us, especially with the cruciferous family where consumers are known to use the crown, and not so much the stem.”
“In our process, we are actually able to use the entire vegetable, which is also benefits the farmers as well.”
For good health
In Australia, only about 7% of adults and 5% of children meet the recommended five servings of vegetables daily.
A serving of fresh vegetables is equivalent to about 75g but for Nutri V’s powders, the same nutritional content is equivalent to just 7.5g.
The condensed and convenience powder format can be used in smoothies, pasta, bread and others.
“Convenience is key and there is quite a wide variation of how it can be used both as an ingredient, as well as an end product,” Said told us.
Said was quick to add that its vegetable powders do not replace a healthy diet of fresh vegetables.
“It gives consumers the ability to boost their vegetable intake very quickly and easily. It is a good source of protein, dietary fiber and other vitamins and minerals. It’s not about replacing but adding value with extra vegetables that you might not otherwise get through your diet.”
Nutri V is aiming to open its online store in early 2021, retailing its vegetable powders and a vegetable snack for children.
Said added the firm was open to retailing in supermarkets and other e-commerce platforms in the future, “our main priority is it everybody has access to these vegetable powders.”
The products will initially be available in Australia first, although the firm is thinking of exploring Asian markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
“The marketplaces there are so diverse with so many opportunities. There are a lot of interest and people are taking their health seriously. Even in emerging markets like Thailand and Vietnam, the markets are excited about new innovative products.”
Nutri V is constantly working on new product development, with potential products in the supplement, dairy, beverage and even puree space.
Vegetable powder and snack is just the first concept by the companies. Said told us Fresh Select has been working with CIRSO on multiple projects over the years.
One of them is micro-encapsulation using vegetables. For instance, healthy oils such as omega-3 fatty acids are generally sensitive to oxidation. Surplus vegetables can be used as a micro-encapsulation application to stabilise these oils, as well as offer additional nutritional benefits on top of the fatty acids.
Said added the firm was also working on a fermentation project with CSIRO, to produce products with gut health benefits.
Dr Pablo Juliano who leads the Food Processing and Supply Chains Group at CSIRO explained that the project will use cultures to ferment the vegetable material and increase the level of antioxidants, fibre and protein while also providing increased gut health benefits.
“It’s like making yogurt but with vegetables instead to multiply the health benefits of these vegetables and turn them into healthy ingredients.”
“We have come up with a number of challenges which involved understanding the crop variety requirements, the processing conditions and equipment required to create omega-3 vegetable powders, the cultures required to ferment the product and how the product will behave when doing applying the technique on a tonnage level.”
“As we solved these challenges we are now adapting these products to consumer requirements to ensure people find new ways and food formats to increase their daily vegetable intake, which is an issue for a large population of Australians.”