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Innovating with upcycling

Innovating with upcycling: economical, environmental and enjoyable

Often overshadowed by grander environmental efforts, upcycling perfectly defines the notion of a circular economy. To go alongside its well-established green credentials, upcycling opens a door to innovation while offering economic benefits to consumers and brands alike. At the same time, it provides simple pleasures from the discovery of new flavors and experiences.

Consumers have been very clear that the health of the planet is their most pressing concern, as reflected in ‘ Shared Planet’ - Innova’s top trend for 2022 . This wave of environmental awareness impacts food and beverages, partly through a greater public effort to minimize waste. Further highlighting this, Innova’s global surveys show over 1 in 3 consumers find products that include upcycled ingredients more appealing. More than 40% declare themselves neutral on the subject and, therefore, open to persuasion. There is an appetite for significant waste reduction, but consumers need to trust that actions are safe and truly beneficial.

Innova Lifestyle & Attitudes Survey 2020

The same surveys show us that people pay attention to environmental labeling. On-pack messaging is a go-to source for consumers keen to know the health, environmental and nutritional value of a product, with trusted certifications carrying a premium. Last year, the Upcycled Food Association launched its logo but, even though brands have signed up to the initiative, some prefer to promote their own claims instead. Whichever certification route is taken, new product development is flourishing across all sectors, with a CAGR of +84% in launches containing an upcycling claim (2018-2021).

Meeting many demands

This burst of innovation has sought to address multiple consumer demands. Promotion of Superfrau’s sparkling health drinks, made with upcycled whey, utilizes health – a significant post-COVID purchase driver – and sustainability messaging. Similarly, beer becomes good for you and the environment with upcycled brewing grain used in Take Two barley milk and ReGrained pasta. And this circularity spins both ways: Guinness and Adnans were among big beer names who brewed recipes that included surplus bread, offering enhanced and novel experiences to people keen to explore new tastes.

Beyond health and sustainability, a new reality is driving consumer actions as we head into 2023; one that reinforces opportunities for upcycling. The cost-of-living crisis is sweeping the globe, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine which is hitting energy provision and supply chains. Innova’s 2022 Consumer Lifestyle Survey revealed that consumers – especially those feeling the pinch the most – are increasingly attuned to repurposing or upcycling and not purely for environmental reasons. Extending product lifespan and extracting the most out of everything we use helps people’s pockets too.

Innova’s top two trends for 2023 (which will be revealed in full in a webinar on November 9 ) are Redefining Value and Affordable Nutrition. These merge environmental and health concerns with insights into the economic pressures that are leading consumers to seek out more for less. Even among those consumers with a particular interest in environmental issues, few feel able to pay more during times of economic volatility. So, it is vital that producers develop processes that do not add to costs in the name of extracting an increased yield from raw materials.

Generational push

In further good news for upcyclers, major interest comes from the source of Innova’s number three trend for 2023: Gen Z and Millennials. Having grown up in the digital age, they are increasingly creating and defining sectors, displaying a willingness to respond to positive engagement and share their experiences. Younger consumers can quickly become advocates and offer major opportunities to grow a long-term market for products that reflect their values.

Upcycling is now much more than “mend and make do”, or another green initiative. It has economic benefits for manufacturers who can extract maximum yields from raw materials. By embracing extended lifespans through reuse and repurposing, value is added to what was once waste. And whether through lower costs or extended uses, consumers don’t have to compromise so much as household budgets are squeezed. More than that, upcycling promotes innovation, creating positivity through new experiences, flavors and pleasures.

To discover the full Innova Market Insights Top Ten Trends for 2023, sign up now for the November 9 webinar. Details here: Innova’s upcoming webinar .

Innova Market Insights Webinar