ACCELERATING FOOD TRANSFORMATION
A new category of food products has emerged as a solution to organic food waste. This new category is often referred to as “upcycled food” or “food waste valorisation” and involves the transformation of food surplus and waste into new, high-quality products. With an estimated ~2.96M T p.a. of food wasted in primary production and manufacturing (FIAL, 2021), there are significant opportunities to potentially convert this to upcycled food.
An ‘upcycling’ approach to waste has been proven to be highly scalable and sustainable. Upcycling has been named as an emerging food trend, including on Whole Food Markets Top 10 food trends for 2023 (Food Business News, 2023), and predicted by Forbes Magazine to have a market potential of US 46.7bn with a 5% compound annual growth rate (Forbes, 2019). However, as with any new market—but especially new foods—various regulatory, social, and technical factors can act as barriers, whilst changes to these factors can create new opportunities to expand the market, create jobs and transform food waste.
Although the anticipated opportunity is significant, there are several challenges currently facing the upcycled food industry in Australia. First, there is no primary data available about the overall opportunities and barriers to upcycled food, and related food transformation pathways. Second, there is a lack of understanding regarding the various regulations that impact food transformation—including those that may inhibit producers’ ability to transform food—and in turn, how regulation can be changed to better facilitate alternative markets and industries that have capacity to engage in food surplus and waste transformation. Collectively, these challenges significantly reduces the capacity of industries to develop alternative markets using food surplus and waste.
Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES), in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology and Fight Food Waste CRC, will use an innovative mix of empirical and regulatory methods designed to understand the full range of opportunities and barriers to upcycled foods, and closely related food transformation pathways, across regulatory, social, and technical domains.
Advancing the emerging upcycled food sector offers an innovative, highly scalable solution to food surplus and waste while simultaneously supporting advanced food manufacturing. Outcomes include targeted recommendations for state and federal regulators regarding, and strategic advice for industries in a position to invest in, converting food surplus and waste into value-added products for human consumption.
The three key aims of this project are:
- Advance understanding about the regulatory and socio-technical environment for, and barriers to, upcycling food in Queensland: Using mixed social science methods, and in collaboration with industry, consumers and government, this project will comprehensively review and evaluate the multiple factors that influence food surplus and waste transformation in Queensland.
- Develop regulatory and market pathways to facilitate the upcycled food sector: This project will determine what kinds of regulatory reforms and related initiatives are required to scale-up alternative markets for food surplus and waste drawing on findings from empirical and regulatory research and on examples from domestic and international jurisdictions.
- Provide advice to industry and to government about consumer perspectives on upcycled food products including how best to develop consumer acceptance and adoption: The regulations that currently influence food surplus and waste transformation are, in part, designed to facilitate consumer acceptance by building trust and safety. Understanding consumer perceptions on the issues with food products created from food surplus and waste transformation and understanding how best to communicate the benefits of food products are essential aspects of enabling alternative markets and ensuring regulatory success.
FIAL (2021). The National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study – Final Report.
Forbes (2019). https://www.forbes.com/sites/bridgetshirvell/2019/12/19/the-upcycled-food-industry-is-worth-467b-here-are-11-products-you-can-try-at-home/?sh=2a15fca2340d accessed 12 December 2022.
Food Business News (2022) https://email@example.com&utm_source=Food+Business+News+Daily&utm_medium=Newsletter&oly_enc_id=6999H9318267D6A accessed 12 December 2022.
01/04/2023 – 31/10/2025