Food currently lost or wasted throughout the production and consumption cycle can be converted into nutritious and tasty foods.
Reversing wasteful processes
Around a third of all food that is produced is lost at some point across the food supply chain. This occurs from farm to fork: during on-farm to post-harvest handling and storage; processing and packaging; distribution and in the market; and lastly by the consumer. Globally this equates to around 1.6 gigatonnes of food wastage, of which 1.3 gigatonnes is still edible at the time of disposal.
Using the apple industry as an example, around two-thirds of apples produced do not meet supermarket specifications. Meanwhile, when used for juicing, around a third of an apple's biomass – known as apple pomace or pulp – remains after the production process finishes, but is currently discarded or used in low-value animal feed or compost. This apple pomace is edible and highly nutritious – containing polyphenols, dietary fibres, protein and essential nutrients. However, with an unappetising appearance and texture, consumers are unlikely to adopt apple pomace alone as a daily food staple.
Stabilising apple ingredients
Researchers from CSIRO's Food Innovation Centre have developed a method to return lost food-grade biomass into the food supply as value-added ingredients and food products.
Using apple pomace as a model food source, the team developed a process for stabilising apple pomace to prevent its physical, chemical and microbial degradation. This creates a nutritious and functional ingredient that retains its flavour, nutritional values and complies with food safety regulations. This process can also be applied to other fruits, vegetables and horticulture products, such as broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, peach, olives and grapes.
Tasty and nutritious food
The stabilised wet pomace can be used as a raw material for the extraction of high value bioactive components for nutraceuticals or supplements. The whole pomace can also be transformed into a shelf-stable, nutritious, functional ingredients in different formats for use in many different food applications. For example, the stabilised wet pomace can be converted into paste, powder, flake, granule or pellet and used as an ingredient or component in manufacture of different food products. Powders can be used in smoothies, desserts, yoghurts, sauces and jams, bakery and extruded products. Flakes, granules or pellets can be used as components in breakfast cereals and health bars.
The value-added conversion of edible unutilised food biomass such as apple pomace is an attractive commercial opportunity for food processors and manufacturers to create a new industry, and can help to alleviate strains to food and nutrition security.