Brewing up Nutritious Ingredients
This is the second article in a series focusing on ways ARS research has led to innovative products from food waste.
Tellus recently introduced readers to the work of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Tara McHugh, director of the Western Regional Research Center in Albany, CA. She and her team in the Healthy Processed Foods Research Unit are experts at solving food-manufacturing problems by using cutting-edge processing technologies.
Industry partnerships are pivotal in turning ideas and research into products for the American consumer. The research unit has been working with some small businesses for more than 15 years and others for less than 3 years. One company they’re partnering with today is ReGrained. The San Francisco-based company has branded products and ingredients that showcase brewer’s spent grain—material left over after brewing beer—as the central ingredient. Urban craft brewers face unique challenges, one of which is disposal of the grains, and many pay to have the leftovers picked up and sent to compost or a landfill, according to ReGrained cofounder Daniel Kurzrock.
“ReGrained rescues this delicious, nutritious grain that gets created every time beer is brewed,” he said. “We partner with breweries to harvest their grain after it’s used to make beer, and then we craft our SuperGrain+ flour.”
And that’s where ARS comes in. Currently, the company makes nutrition bars out of the high-protein, high-fiber, nutrient-rich brewer’s spent grain. “We’re working with them on ways to stabilize that ingredient—drying and milling it—so it can be used to make flour as an ingredient for other healthy foods,” McHugh said.
“In our early days, we recognized that this nutritious grain was going to waste after it did its job at the brewery,” Kurzrock said. “We discovered a solution of upcycling the grain into a reusable, versatile, and functional ingredient.” But Kurzrock and cofounder Jordan Schwartz lacked the technical know-how to scale up their brewery-waste solution. After learning about McHugh’s research team, they found their company was a perfect match for collaborative work with ARS.
“Dr. McHugh and her team are brilliant,” Kurzrock said. “Once hearing about our goals, they knew that together we could develop a viable and optimal path forward.”
Through research and testing, ReGrained and ARS are working to develop a value-added processing method to efficiently and economically dry and mill the grain into flour that can be used for a variety of applications on a commercial scale, according to McHugh.
“This novel technology will be gentler, energy and cost efficient, with better food safety and consistency,” Kurzrock said. A patent has been filed for the technology and product output.—By Sandra Avant, formerly with the ARS Office of Communications.