In California, many of us have become desensitized to the all-out phenomena that is the cold-pressed juice movement. No one bats an eye when you say you bathe in kale-beet juice after your Soulcycle class. Like, duh.
Unfortunately, this makes it incredibly easy to overlook the vast quantities of pulp that are produced as a byproduct of juicing. This pulp contains nearly all the fiber (and has ⅔ less sugar) of fresh fruits and vegetables. All those delicious nutrients are being sent off to compost, or worse, landfill.
We’ve mentioned that we’re passionate about Edible Upcycling. That’s because, globally, ⅓ of all edible food goes to waste, and that statistic does not even include edible byproducts - like juice pulp.
I had the pleasure of interviewing a fellow edible upcycler, Kaitlin Mongentale, co-founder of Pulp Pantry. Her awesome company is fighting food waste by creating delicious snacks, baking mixes, and soaps from juice pulp.
Where do you source your pulp from? What would otherwise be the fate of this tasty byproduct?
I source organic juice pulp from local commercial juiceries - the kind that operate out of a central facility and distribute bottled juices through either retail or wholesale channels. If it weren't for Pulp Pantry, the pulp would otherwise be trashed or composted by a farmer (usually outside of LA County). They're each producing in volumes ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds of pulp per week. In busy weeks, I pick up as much as 500 quarts of fresh pulp.
How do you create your unique granola flavors? Are they inspired by juice flavors? Is the pulp already mixed from the juicing process?
Our pulp is separated, which makes flavor development even more fun! I didn't come from a culinary background, so while in development of the products I was hungry (literally) for any resources that would help me to discern how to think about flavor pairing. The first book I bought was The Flavor Bible, which explores flavor pairing through history and culture. It's fascinating. My first granola flavors reflected the most compelling spice pairings I found in the book, but I went through a lot of different iterations. That's why farmers markets are perfect for launching products! We launched with 20 or so flavors of granolas and crackers, and would solicit feedback from the marketgoers each week (we had 3 booths a week for almost 6 months). By the end, we had a range of 7 SKUs that were widely enjoyed. Come to think of it, 7 is my lucky number.... The only flavor that didn't come out of the bible and is relatively recent is carrot peanut butter. The inspiration there was that I used to love eating carrots dipped in peanut butter and truly that flavor makes me nostalgic. Now, we're working with a pastry chef to finalize our recipes and streamline production - which means bringing our line down to 4 SKU's (2 savory and 2 sweet).
What are the health benefits of juice pulp and Pulp Pantry products?
There's a stat that only 13% of Americans eat their daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Without our fruits and vegetables, our diets miss out on a lot of beneficial fiber. Fiber is our holy grail at Pulp Pantry. It helps to promote healthy digestion and keeps the good bacteria in your gut happy. Juice pulp contains nearly all of the fiber of the fresh fruits and vegetables, with as much as 2/3 less sugar! And still contains many (half) of the vitamins and minerals. Most all of our products are raw to preserve all the good stuff, including those micro and macro nutrients!
What have been some excitements and challenges of working with byproduct ingredients?
Every day that I'm able to share about Pulp Pantry brings joy because people get excited about the novelty of this kind of model! It's simple, resourceful and humble. All of us want to do well for our bodies, communities and environment and these products and the ideas that they promote get at each of these aspirational human desires. I see many more juiceries beginning to think about how they can better use their juice pulp, and find more and more people interested in collaborating. To me, this goes to show that our model is working and that it's helping juiceries rethink waste as well. The challenges are dealing with uncertainty. We're adapting and evolving as we learn and grow. Currently the challenge is figuring out how to scale our supplier relationships as well as our distribution so that we can increase our impact and ability to repurpose pulp into truly healthy, delicious foods.
What’s the latest with Pulp Pantry? What are you working on? What are you looking forward to?
We're working on new products which will be released soon! It's been a year and a half of amazing learning opportunities but I'm excited to see what we can do next. I've been doing a lot of reflection, learning from mistakes that I've made and iterating with ideas on how to operate more efficiently and nimbly going forward.
Pulp Pantry’s bright, fun packaging invites customers to “meet your juice’s other half,” but we might argue that what they’re creating IS juice’s better half. Of course, as edible upcyclers, we’re maybe a bit biased. But try out their delicious granola, and see for yourself!
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If we are going to solve the packaging problem, we need to do it together. The time has come for less talk and more action.
I commit ReGrained to open collaboration and radical transparency on this matter indefinitely. Who is with us?