CHICAGO — Barbara Mandrell released the hit song “I was country (when country wasn’t cool)” in 1981. More than 40 years later executives of companies selling certain ingredients may relate to the tune. Those companies were marketing upcycled ingredients before upcycling was cool, or even before the term was gaining recognition in the food and beverage industry through the Upcycled Certified mark.

The Upcycled Food Association launched the Upcycled Certified mark in 2021, defining upcycled food as foods that use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.

Upcycled ingredients were promoted in several booths at IFT FIRST, the Institute of Food Technologists meeting and exposition held July 10-13 in Chicago. Environmental concerns such as reducing food waste may appeal to younger consumers like millennials and Gen Z, said Joan Holleran Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership for IRI, in a July 13 IFT session.

“Particularly for Gen Z, they’re just making these purchases for the first time,” she said. “They are exercising their shopper chops, if you will, for a lifetime. So, they are super valuable.”

The origins of FruitSmart, Inc., Prosser, Wash., date to 1982, a time before any Gen Z consumers were born and back when Ms. Mandrell frequently was on top the country and western charts. The fruit processor in the Northwest often comes across fresh fruit that might not fit appearance quality standards, perhaps being too small or too large, meaning the fruit may end up in a landfill, said Wayne Lutomski, president of FruitSmart.

FruitSmart finds use for the fruit. The company was part of a pilot project with the Upcycled Food Association and has received the Upcycled Certified mark.

FruitSmart makes low-moisture fruit granules, pieces and powders from whole fruit that work in baked foods, bars, fruit and snack mixes, beverage smoothies, fruit preparations, and nutraceutical ingredients.

FruitSmart produces apple, blueberry and cranberry fiber ingredients from the pomace byproduct that comes after processing fruit for juice or juice concentrates. The fiber ingredients are air-dried to less than 5% moisture and may be milled to meet customers’ needs. Potential applications include bakery ingredients for cake, bread, muffins and crackers, bars, and pet food and pet treats.

Ingredients from AgriFiber Solutions, Mundelein, Ill., also have the Upcycled Certified mark. The origins of the company date back 25 years to a collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture to reduce food waste, said Jonathan Kahn, chief executive officer.

At its IFT booth AgriFiber promoted its soluble fiber ingredients, made of corn bran fiber and oat bran fiber, in plant-based cream cheese bites and spiced chocolate coffee beverages. Soluble corn fiber may be used as a binding agent, and soluble oat fiber is an option for fortified baked bars.

EverGrain Ingredients, a company backed by AB InBev, was in the startup section at the IFT expo. The St. Louis-based company through a proprietary process transforms the barley used in the brewing process into protein ingredients under the EverPro brand that may be used in foods and beverages. EverPro, which is 85% protein, has received the Upcycled Certified mark. EverGrain promoted plant-based protein shakes and plant-based milk alternatives at IFT.

OFI, a business of Olam International, has found ways to use garlic tops, said Jill Houk, a chef and director of culinary for OFI. The bulbs are the highest yielding parts of the garlic plant while the tops often are tilled back into the growers’ fields or are used for animal feed, she said.

“We’re working with the farmers,” Ms. Houk said. “What we’re working with is ag waste.”

OFI dehydrates the garlic tops and turns them into powder to add garlic taste and green color into applications like pesto, dressings, sauces and salsa. The upcycled ingredient also may be applied topically on snacks. The ingredient adds fiber to pet food, and garlic has been shown to improve digestion in dogs.

OFI is working with the Upcycled Food Association about achieving an Upcycled Certified mark for the ingredients made garlic tops.