The industry-first tortilla chips are made using 40% upcycled corn germ – compared to the tortilla chip standard of 100% virgin growth corn – which has reduced the Dallas-based producer’s water footprint by at least 20 gallons (76 litres) per 11oz bag.
In fact, Kazoo has managed to save 800,000 gallons of water since it started in 2021.
According to founder Joshua Death, the agriculture industry uses colossal amounts of water each year, but not all the food produced goes to feed people. In the US alone, it’s estimated that more than 100 billion pounds of food is wasted annually, equating to an eye-watering $160bn.
As a board member of the Upcycled Standards Association – which works to reduce waste by growing an upcycled economy – Death started Kazoo to use the surplus produce that is typically binned or turned into animal feed.
However, he also wanted to make a major dent in water use and has pledged that Kazoo will save 1 billion gallons (4.5 billion litres) of water by 2025.
Labour of love
Kazoo combines upcycled corn germ – the byproduct from the nation’s massive corn starch industry, but in this instance, primarily harvested from generational farms in Iowa – and whole corn, using a proprietary process.
It took four years, and numerous failures, to develop the sustainable chip, tapping water footprint engineers who specialise in using this reclaimed byproduct to design the company’s model. However, Death didn’t stop there and pushed on with development to include better-for-you properties such as extra fibre, healthy fats and less carbs.
“In 2020 alone, the US consumed 1 million tons of tortilla chips. It currently takes 180 billion gallons (818 billion litres) of water to grow enough corn to meet this demand – with not a single drop of water spared. That’s a whole lot of corn and even more water,” said Death.
“Since we’re able to incorporate 40% upcycled corn germ byproduct into our chip, we only need 60% virgin growth corn. Only a small percentage of water used to grow the corn for starch is attributable to the germ byproduct. As such, we’re able to get a corn tortilla chip where 60% of the corn uses its full water footprint of 110 gallons (500 litres) per pound of corn.”
He added the Kazoo approach would save 57 billion gallons of US freshwater per year.
The water savings were calculated using an ISO 14044 lifecycle model, and validated by water lifecycle footprint assessment experts and vetted by former FDA food lawyers.
Kazoo Snacks Tortilla Chips were recently awarded the 2022 Editor Pick by Progressive Grocer as a Best New Product ‘worthy of retailer and consumer attention’. The editor praised the brand for being ‘higher in healthy fats and nutrients'’, while noting that its upcycled tortilla chips contain 61% more vitamin E than conventional brands.
“We have been working hard since our launch in 2021 to spread the word about our eco-friendly, better-for-you tortilla chips,” said Death.
“With the food industry being responsible for 70% of the world’s water usage, we are determined to show larger manufacturers and developing brands that while it takes a lot more work and resources, it’s possible to deliver a great-tasting product, while also minimising food and water waste. This acknowledgement means a great deal to us, as it’s evidence of what we’ve known all along – that our products are on track to make a substantial impact in the world.
“Our hope is that consumers – in being presented a choice between a conventional tortilla chip brand and one that is sustainable and upcycled with a positive and measurable environmental impact – will choose the eco-friendlier choice.”
Death said Kazoo is now reviewing sustainable packaging and carbon neutral transport options.
Kazoo’s tortilla chips are available in Restaurant Style and Lime Zest varieties – all of which are vegan, kosher and gluten-free. At 140 calories per serving, each handful is chock-full of fibre, calcium, potassium and 100% natural ingredients.
The snacks are sold through retailers across the US – including Whole Foods California, Hyvee, Market of Choice and Central Market, and will soon be listed on Amazon – for an RRP of $4.99 per 11oz bag.