Upcycling in the UK, flour with wheat stalks and sugar from cereal co-products

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Upcycling in the UK

An innovative startup, The Supplant Company (UK), creates in the U.S. wheat flour with added fiber extracted from its stalks and a sugar substitute by upcycling co-products of various cereals (1,2).

The company’s vision is to use the ‘sidestream materials’ of cereal cultivation (e.g. stems, stalks, husks and cobs) – which express significant volumes, compared to primary products – to produce innovative food ingredients.

However, the introduction of these circular economy applications onto the EU and UK market must, in the European Union as in the United Kingdom, undergo the onerous authorization procedure for novel foods. (3)

1) Wheat flour with fibers extracted from its stalks

Supplant Grain & Stalk Flour‘ is a product composed of wheat flour and fiber extracted from its stalks, intended for use in the production of pasta and baked goods. The product has a dietary fiber content approximately six times higher and a lower energy value (kcal) than traditional flour. The manufacturing process is described as follows:

– selection of raw materials. The innovation consists in the upcycling of wheat stalks. Which have so far been used, as straw, for animal bedding and panels for green building,

– preparation and cleaning. The wheat stalks are cleaned and prepared, using undisclosed techniques, to ensure they are ‘free of contaminants’ and shredded;

– extraction and treatment of fibers. The Supplant Company extracts the fibers from the stems with an enzymatic process, in order to preserve the integrity of the fibers;

– mixing with grain and packaging. The fibers extracted from the stems are milled and mixed with wheat flour, in the proportion defined according to the uses.

2) Sugar from cereal co-products

Sugars from Fiber‘ is presented as a sugar substitute with technological performance and organoleptic properties, but half the kcal and a reduced glycemic index, thanks to the presence of fibers. This food is also made by upcycling cereal co-products. Its production process is described in the following terms:

– collection of agricultural ‘sidestream materials’. The matrices reported include hay (stalks) of corn and rice, corn cobs, as well as husks left over from the production of oat milk, previously used for feed production;

– enzymatic process. The Supplant Company thus decomposes the polysaccharides (long sugar chains) present in the fibrous materials into oligosaccharides and sugars;

– extraction and purification of sugars, with processes not made public. To obtain a sweetener with a taste and functionality similar to sucrose, with a more balanced nutritional profile.

3) Marketing perspectives

Both products of The Supplant Company lend themselves to offering different marketing levers between sustainable development, nutrition and health:

– upcycled foods. The use of ‘sidestream materials’ for food purposes which were previously intended for ‘food loss’ today expresses the cutting edge on the sustainability front; (4)

– nutrition and health. The Supplant Company already offers food industries and food service operators ‘ad hoc’ solutions for the use of a variety of claims, such as

– ‘fewer calories’, ‘reduced carbohydrate content’, ‘rich in fiber’, ‘vegan’, ‘contains prebiotic fiber’. Without neglecting, we add, the references to the Glycaemic Index (GI). (5)

4) Risk analysis, novel food authorisation

Foods (including of plant origin) which have no significant and demonstrated experience of consumption in the European Union (including the United Kingdom) prior to May 1997, please note, are subject to prior authorization as novel food. (3)

Food safety of these products also depends to a significant extent, in the humble opinion of the writer, on the use of agricultural raw materials from organic farming. The risk analysis that the operator must include in the authorization request must in fact consider:

– the different levels of residues of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other agrotoxicants in the various parts of plants that come from ‘conventional’ agriculture, in addition to

– high physical (e.g. heavy metals), microbiological (with particular regard to clostridia) and above all chemical (e.g. mycotoxins) contaminants linked to the agricultural phase. (6)

5) Provisional conclusions

Upcycling remains the key word in research and innovation of the new millennium. Reducing food losses and waste can contribute to food security and nutrition security, as well as adding value to primary agricultural production. (7)

The Supplant Company has already obtained over US$ 26 million in venture capital funding which has opened up its development prospects, from Cambridge Science Park to the U.S. and Europe. (8) It’s time to address regulatory bottlenecks and focus on organic agriculture, the only truly sustainable one. (9)

#wasteless

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) The Supplant Company https://supplant.com/

(2) Dario Dongo. Upcycling, the main road to research and innovationGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.1.2023

(3) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Novel foods, the state of the art in the European UnionGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 21.11.23

(4) Dario Dongo, Giulia Pietrollini. Upcycling economy, upcycled food. The revolution against wasteGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.7.23

(5) Glycemic index on the label? The lawyer Dario Dongo answersDO (Food and Agriculture Requirements). 24.6.23

(6) Giulia Pietrollini. Emerging risks, modified mycotoxinsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.11.22

(7) See also, in this regard, the research project for the recovery of co-products of legume crops carried out in the European research project PROLIFIC, in Horizon 2020. Green extraction method of proteins and fibers from agro-industrial by-products of the food chain legumes. Emilia-Romagna High Technology Network http://tinyurl.com/4bkpreev

(8) The Supplant Company, life science. Cambridge Science Park http://tinyurl.com/46257m9s

(9) Dario Dongo. The advantages of organic agriculture, scientific review by FiBLGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.1.24

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.