‘Upcycling’ A Fast-Growing Food Industry In Minnesota


We are honored to have our story told by Star Tribune reporter Brooks Johnson.

Photo illustration by NURI DUCASSI; iStock Star Tribune staff

What happens to all that malted barley after beer is done brewing, or all those oats after being soaked to make oat milk? They are increasingly ending up back in food.

Minnesota’s nascent “upcycled” food industry — which is one part recycling and another part food manufacturing — has gone from nearly non- existent to vibrant in just a few years. The aim of upcycling is to find new uses for otherwise discarded, yet still nutritious, foodstuffs. Repurposed grains are hitting shelves in baking mixes, crackers and even cereal.

“It used to be a movement. Now it’s an industry,” said Sue Marshall, founder and CEO of St. Paul-based upcycling company Netzro.

The practice of redirecting food waste — which the industry calls “byproduct utilization” — has been around since agriculture began, mostly by reusing it in animal feed or compost. But rebranding it as upcycling, and finding ways to commercialize the practice for human food, has helped the industry rapidly take off.

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