The intertwined concepts of circular economy and sustainable business are influencing the food and agriculture sector as impacts from global warming, climate change, and food loss increase. In the food industry, the circular bioeconomy is being realized as agricultural by-products and food waste is captured as value-added ingredients to reformulate existing products, and in the development of new products and brands.

In addition to sustainability benefits, market data suggests consumers are beginning to make preferential purchases of products embracing this approach. “Upcycling” is the new term coined to describe this approach, and according to ReFED’s Roadmap to 2030: Reducing U.S. Food Waste by 50%, 1.9 million tons of manufacturing by-product could be diverted and utilized via upcycling, generating $2.7 billion net financial benefits. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have also embraced a U.S. 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction goal.

As a result, innovation focused on developing processes to upcycle agricultural by-products that also deliver consumer health benefits have accelerated significantly. However, real success for this approach will require these upcycled ingredients to deliver product quality and sensory benefits alongside health and environmental sustainability benefits. This means they have to taste as good, or better, than their alternatives, and they also need to have a great mouth feel.

A new model for delivering this combination of benefits and desirability has recently emerged via a research collaboration between the University of California, Davis, the University of Tennessee, Iowa State University, the USDA, and Sonomaceuticals, LLC.

This team has developed a new ingredient, WellVine™ Chardonnay Marc, which is upcycled from cold-pressed Chardonnay grapes grown in cool, coastal vineyards. WellVine™ Chardonnay Marc is enabling innovation in chocolate formulation with desirable new flavor profiles, as well as increased levels of health-promoting bioactives, such as flavonoids and oligosaccharides, that have the potential to improve cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health.

The ability of this new upcycled ingredient to improve finished product sensory properties, as well as potential for health benefits, has come to life via the launch of Vine to Bar™ dark chocolate products made with WellVine™ Chardonnay Marc.