By Dawna Stone
Senior Vice President
According to the United Nations, global food waste amounts to a loss of about a third to a half of all the food produced, creating unnecessary wastage of various resources. In fact, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers had a report called “Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not” which revealed around 1.2 to 2 billion tons of food go to waste all over the world – essentially, there is plenty of food available but 30-50% of it does not even reach a single human stomach. However, eco-vegan companies like Planetarians have turned to a bold innovation: converting food waste into high-protein food.
Waste Not, Want Not
In the United States alone, up to 40% of food is wasted while one in eight Americans still struggle to get enough food for their families. This unfortunate irony is something Planetarians aims to overcome. In their bold idea of creating healthy and protein-rich snacks, they create wholesome chips that provide three times the protein, two times the fiber, and 70% less fat than regular potato chips.
Planetarians, based in Kansas, Missouri, call themselves the “food bridge between today and tomorrow.” Founded in 2013, the company aims to help both the environment as well as the people, essentially making use of parts of plants the food industry usually ends up wasting. The result? Planetarians’ special brand of sunflower chips, which contain as many as 20.59 grams of protein per 100 grams.
Amazingly, Planetarians sunflower chips are breaking barriers and typecasts attached to regular snack chips. In addition to being healthy, people can actually consider a serving as one healthy meal – unlike other potato and vegetable chips that are usually fatty, unhealthy snack time options. For people on a 2,000-calorie diet, a serving of Planetarians has the same amount of protein as two eggs, and the same amount of fiber as three apples.
All those nutrients in one scrumptious serving of healthy chips have less than 2% salt. Even so, they have enough flavor but are still comparatively lower in salt yet higher in fiber than chicken’s white meat found in nuggets. They have zero cholesterol and at least 5 grams more protein per 100 grams as well. Compared to ground beef, it has competitive levels of nutrients, more protein, less lipid (fat), and more dietary fiber.
They are just as tasty, but certainly more filling than your regular bag of potato chips. What’s even more shocking is that they are even more nutritious than certain veggies and fruits. Compared to an apple’s dietary fiber of 2.4 per 100 grams, Planetarians sunflower chips has 11.76 per 100 grams. They are rich in promoting microbiomes (good microorganisms), which in turn aid digestion, thus leading to less risk of obesity.
Plant Protein Power
The people behind Planetarians ran with the thought of using 100% of a plant in order to reduce carbon footprints and overall human impact to the environment. For their very first product, the sunflower chips come from both sunflower oil and sunflower meal – the latter is left after extracting from seeds used as animal feeds. They found that sunflower meal, which is often fed to cows and other livestock, has 35% protein while the beef from cows only has 26%. So instead of feeding the sunflower meal to the cows and then slaughtering the cows for beef, they can produce a higher protein food directly from the sunflower meal.
It is also clear that in recent years, people are becoming more and more health-conscious, looking for alternative ways to get their complete nutrients from different sources. The latest trend in the food industry is having more plant-based foods, especially with veganism and vegetarianism on the rise. With the need for more animal-friendly protein sources, people on plant-based diets are looking at companies that offer delicious food that do not take the lives of cows and other protein-rich meat sources.
From Waste to Wonder
Certainly, Planetarians is not the only company converting food waste into something useful and sustainable. Several other companies turn food waste into delicious food products, or even into other useful items.
For example, Unilever acquisition Sir Kensington created a vegan mayonnaise “Fabanaise” coming from aquafaba, the leftover liquid from cooked chickpeas. Rich in protein and starch, it became the perfect egg substitute. While today it no longer uses food waste aquafaba for their Fabanaise product, they helped pave the way for other companies to take similar initiatives.
Back to the Roots is another eco-friendly company, one that recycles used coffee grounds in growing their organic mushrooms. Imperfect Produce is another California-based business, providing subscription-based edible (albeit flawed) produce at 30-50% discounted prices, promoting less food waste and healthier ingredient options to their subscribers.
Lastly, Misfit Juicery is a DC-based company that offers cold-pressed juices made from 70-80% “recovered” produce. They use fruits and vegetables that, much like those used by Imperfect Produce, would probably have been thrown away because of imperfections. They also use food scraps from fresh products, similar to how Planetarians use sunflower meal after extracting sunflower oil.
Other companies that turn food waste into renewable resources do not necessarily go into food production. For instance, there are biogas options and other forms of green energy converted from food waste coming from homes, restaurants, supermarkets, and any other institutions.
Truly, companies like Planetarians disrupt the food industry in the best possible way. With every hurdle comes plenty of hope, as bright minds all over the country and from around the world are coming up with fresh, bold ideas that create something new and useful from things that are otherwise left useless.