You may have noticed that upcycled food has made its way into countless consumer product trends lists and headlines over the last few months. I find this trend to be a fascinating phenomenon, partly because most people don’t seem to fully understand upcycling; but they like it, and they want more of it. The novelty is intriguing, and consumers want a taste. A meta-analysis of the latest trends reports and headlines reveals the growing momentum around upcycled food and the untapped potential of this fledgling market.

At the height of the new year, mega-retailer Kroger identified 10 emerging food trends of 2022, distinguishing upcycled ingredients as one way to both reduce waste and to prioritize the health of the planet. We are entering an era beyond just plant-based and organic. There’s a growing emphasis on reuse and reduce, and upcycled ingredients play a key role in those efforts.

According to Trendhunter’s 2022 Trend Report, seed upcycling emerged as a key trend for the upcoming year, ripe with opportunity. Instead of discarding seeds used during the production process, upcycling transforms and converts these leftovers into things like snack foods, energy bars, protein powders, and pet foods.

These predictions weren’t merely speculation. Expo West attendees saw this manifest in real time in Anaheim at the March 2022 exhibition. The trade show proved to be a shining moment for upcycling, so much so that SPINS highlighted upcycling as one of the most prominent trends on the tradeshow floor in their recap report.

Perhaps we could have seen this coming. In October, Innova Market Insights dubbed upcycled foods as a top trend for 2022. Based on Innova’s latest research report, 43 percent of respondents say that “reducing food waste” is the top action they are taking with their food choices as it pertains to the environment. On a global scale, 35 percent of consumers are more interested in products containing upcycled ingredients than those without.

Upcycled food is an opportunity to educate consumers. A 2021 study published in Food and Nutrition Sciences reveals that only 10 percent of consumers were familiar with the term upcycling. However, after those same consumers were further educated on the concept, 80 percent said they would seek it out. Comparably, a recent poll by New Food asked consumers if they would eat (or currently eat) upcycled food products. 41 percent responded yes while 43 percent said they did not know what upcycled food was.

Read the full article about upcycled food by Caroline Barry at Food Tank.