CHICAGO — Cricket burgers that brown like beef and cookies made from soy pulp are concepts created by the winners of the inaugural IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge. Of more than 60 applicants, six were selected to participate in a six-week mentoring program and live pitching competition held July 17 at IFT18, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago.
“All of these companies represent some of the brightest solutions in the food technology industry and have the potential to positively impact the sustainability and overall health of our global food system,” said Christie Tarantino-Dean, chief executive officer of the I.F.T. “We are honored to provide these entrepreneurs with a platform to push these innovative ideas even further and support I.F.T.’s vision of advancing the science of food.”
The panel of judges included Jennifer Bentz, senior vice-president of research and development, innovation and insights for Tyson Foods, Inc.; Jeff Grogg, founder and managing director of JPG Resources; J. Skyler Fernandes, co-founder and managing director of Venture University; John Ruff, past-president of the I.F.T. and former senior vice-president of global quality, scientific affairs and nutrition for Kraft Foods; Nicole Schumacher, chief marketing officer of PRE Brands; and Natalie Shmulik, c.e.o. of The Hatchery. The event was emceed by Daymond John of the television show “Shark Tank.”
Renewal Mill, Oakland, Calif., received a $25,000 cash prize and Future Food Disruptor of the Year award. The company seeks to reduce food waste by transforming such byproducts as pistachio shells, potato peels and olive pits into nutritious, functional ingredients.
“We are redefining mass-market nutrition by creating healthier, tastier, cheaper ingredients for all,” said Sumit Kadakia, who co-founded the company in 2016. “Oftentimes nutrients are stripped from our food during processing, which is correlated with our rise in heart disease, obesity and diabetes. And this wasted nutrition has severe environmental and social consequences.
“Our industry-leading work to capture these byproducts is alleviating these concerns as well as generating value back for food processors.”
Renewal Mill’s flagship product is okara flour, a versatile, high-fiber, gluten-free flour made from the pulpy byproduct of soy milk processing. The company has developed a line of individually packaged cookies made with okara flour for convenience stores and food service outlets.
“Okara is a tremendous source of fiber, protein and calcium and has a very low net carb,” Mr. Kadakia said. “Most importantly it doesn’t change the taste, texture or appearance of any of our favorite foods.”
Future packaged products from Renewal Mill may showcase split pea starch, a byproduct the company is sourcing through a partnership with Ripple Foods, a maker of dairy alternatives featuring pea protein.
The winner of a $5,000 cash prize and the people’s choice award for Future Food Disruptor of the Year was C-fu Foods, a Toronto-based processor of insect ingredients. Cricket flour is not new to the American market but has limited applications, said Lee Cadesky, co-founder and chief operating officer. C-fu Foods offers insect protein concentrate, which may be used for sports nutrition and ready-to-drink beverages, and textured insect protein, which may replace meat, dairy and egg in anything from hamburgers to ice cream.
“It browns like meat and can be made from over 2,500 documented edible insect species with different flavors, textures and colors from each one we work with,” Mr. Cadesky said.
Compared to conventional livestock, insects require a significantly smaller amount of land, water and feed, while delivering similar quality and levels of micronutrients and protein, he said.
“The bioavailability of insects can rival sirloin beef,” he added.
C-fu Foods, whose name is derived from “cricket tofu,” developed a consumer packaged goods brand called One Hop Kitchen, introducing products such as mealworm bolognese and cricket bolognese pasta sauces to showcase textured insect protein.
“Our real goal is ingredients,” Mr. Cadesky said. “That is where we feel we can have a real impact. We want to empower entrepreneurs all over the world to create great products that I couldn’t even think of.”
Other finalists in the first-ever Food Disruption Challenge at IFT18 included:
Nebullam, a food technology company providing vertical farmers with high-pressure aeroponic systems combined with artificial intelligence;
Re-Nuble, an agricultural technology company that transforms food waste into organic nutrients for soil-based and hydroponic cultivation;
Rise Products, a food technology company that converts brewers’ spent grain from beermaking into flour;
Inductive Intelligence, a packaging technology company that has developed a coaster-size appliance that may be used as a wireless phone charger and to heat single-serve foods and beverages.