What’s Up With Upcycled?
The food and beverage industry always has a bunch of ‘buzzwords’ floating around – some highly descriptive and some just too hard to figure out.
‘Gluten-free’ – no problem. ‘All natural’ – not so sure. And one of the most popular right now is ‘Upcycled’. The term is also now an organization – the Upcycled Food Association, of which Sunrise Fresh has been a supporting member. The reason is simple – here is the Association’s definition of an Upcycled food:
“Upcycled Foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains and have a positive impact on the environment.”
So, you may ask – how does this define our dried fruits? Exactly, is how. Only a small percentage of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are consumed each year. The apples you buy in the grocery store are a tiny fraction of the apples grown in the United States and, in fact, around the world. Those beautiful fresh peaches you crave every summer – again, only a tiny portion of peaches grown each season.
Here are the two biggest issues with fresh fruits and veggies that make upcycling so important in these categories: A) Ultra-short Shelflife and B) High Visual Appeal. We all know that fresh fruits and veggies, once harvested, begin counting down a shelf-life that is measured in days unless proper refrigeration or other measures are taken. And maybe even harder for fruits is ‘B’ – pretty fruits get eaten – ugly ones – those that even make it to market usually remain unsold.
Let's take our Sunrise Fresh Cherries as an example. Most Sweet Cherries (as opposed to tart…) start life growing on trees – where they are hand-harvested. Yes, that lovely bunch of cherries you bought at the Supermarket was carefully cut down from its tree by a human being on a ladder! There is some initial sorting that takes place in the field but most of the crop harvested goes into totes and heads for the 'packing shed’. The ‘shed’ can be an open-air building with long tables where the fruit is unloaded and then hand-sorted –or it can be a multi-million dollar plant where the cherries float on water conveyors and are inspected, measured, and sorted by lasers. Regardless, the key is to determine how the cherries actually ‘look’. Do they have stems on, are they a good color – and condition: do they have any marks, blemishes, or splits?
Cherries that pass that first inspection are called #1’s – and they are beautiful – it’s that High Visual Appeal again. They get quickly shipped out to grocery stores, farmer's markets, and some are even exported.
Then we get to #2’s – perfectly good fruit and great eating – but you might have to ignore that bruise! Retailers don’t want these fruits because shoppers think maybe they won’t taste good or that there is something wrong with them. A good amount of these fruits will end up being frozen, used for juice but also a good chance for them to become a Sunrise Fresh Premium Dried Sweet Cherry!
There are a couple of other uses for #2’s including use in jam or jelly and #3;s can be used in animal feed – but most would end up being buried somewhere- they simply go to waste. And that’s what Sunrise Fresh aims to prevent. Once dried, a cherry or peach, or pear – can be stored for a longer term and can be used as a baking or cooking ingredient, put in trail mixes, bars, cereals, or just eaten by hand as a healthy snack!
There are lots of other categories in Food & Beverage where product or by-product ends up being landfilled – simply because the industries are not set up to 'deal' with the '2nd’ product or we haven’t yet figured out what the material can be used for – but with fresh fruits, we know that the more uses we have for dried, the more they are used for ingredients and the more consumers see them as a healthy snack item – the more tons of waste we can keep out of landfills!