ReGrained repurposes spent beer grain into a baking ingredient to cut food waste
“Our mission is to recover grains from breweries that otherwise would go into the landfill, and repurpose it to create healthy, sustainable food,” company co-founder Daniel Kurzrock told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that US beer brewers annually use about 6 billion pounds of grain, which is soaked in hot water to extract the sugar and make liquid wort – a key ingredient of beer. But after the sugar is removed, the spent grain – which smells and tastes like oatmeal – often is tossed into the landfill or compost.
But these “spent” grains are far from depleted – they are packed with on trend components and have bold flavors, Kurzrock said. He noted one cup of spent grain on average contains 6 grams of dietary fiber and 3.5 grams of protein.
In addition, the grains have a low glycemic index score – making the ingredient idea for better-for-you snacks that are low in sugar and high in nutrition.
The ingredient also is desirable because it usually is free for anyone willing to pick it up and take it away from the brewery, which otherwise needs to pay a service to remove the wet ingredient, Kurzrock said.
A virtuous circle
Kurzrock and his partner discovered the hidden value of spent grain as a food ingredient when they brewed beer at their homes as a hobby and were upset by throwing away “coolers full of grain.”
They started playing around with baking bread and cakes with the ingredient to sell as a way to fund the purchase of their next batch of home-brew ingredients, but as craft breweries began to boom in the US, the men quickly realized that there was a bigger opportunity to address food waste and create a sustainable ingredient supply chain.
To realize the full potential of the ingredient, ReGrained 10 months ago launched two commercial snack bars made with spent grain and other simple, organic ingredients in beer-themed flavors: Honey Almond IPA and Chocolate Coffee Stout.
As the bars gained popularity, the company co-founders knew they needed funds to cover the cost of new compostable wrappers that could be automated – and the machines to go with them – as well as money to invest in research and development and other processing costs.
The duo turned to the fundraising platform Barnraiser and successfully raised more than $30,000 in a campaign that ended in early December.
Kurzrock said he and his partner chose Barnraiser over other more well-known fundraising websites because the platform’s values aligned with those of the company. Barnraiser focuses on food and agriculture companies that are dedicated to improving how food is made and increasing sustainability.
Given ReGrained’s environmental focus, Kurzrock though Barnraiser would attract investors who already cared about ReGrained’s mission.
Becoming a supply broker
While ReGrained is excited to expand its product line and distribution, Kurzrock says the CPGs are also a way to create consumer demand for the spent grain and ultimately pave the way for ReGrained to become a supply broker of spent grain for other food manufacturers.
“We want to become a part of the supply chain for the food system” by connecting manufacturers of baked goods with breweries to more widely repurpose spent grain.
For this element of the business to take off though, Kurzrock acknowledged that several challenges must be addressed.
First, ReGrained will need to perfect different use applications to help manufacturers understand how to work with the ingredient and make desirable products, he said.
Second, ReGrained will need to work with breweries to standardize the spent grain. Currently, brewers may use different blends of grains and extract more or less sugar depending on the variations they want in their beers, Kurzrock said.
Despite these challenges, Kurzrock is confident in the ingredient’s potential and the benefits it offers to reducing food waste as well as helping manufacturers lower production costs and offer healthier food options.