In Summer 2015, with the goal of being No. 1 in the mustard, ketchup and mayo categories, condiment company Sir Kensington’s (recently acquired by Unilever) decided that it needed a vegan version to really play in the world of mayo.
After hundreds of iterations with the usual soy and pea proteins that replace the egg yolk in vegan mayo, the product team was nowhere close to where they wanted to be in terms of taste and texture. “We wanted to create a vegan mayo experience that was equal to regular mayo so that you didn’t feel like you were missing out on anything,” says Laura Villevielle, Sir Kensington’s Vice President of Product.
Enter aquafaba, which one of the company’s interns discovered in a blog post on Food52. Aquafaba is leftover liquid from cooking chickpeas and has a unique profile of high starch and protein content that makes it perfect replacing the egg in things like vegan meringues. After just four iterations, Sir Kensington’s vegan mayo was really coming together (pun intended) and the team was light years ahead of where it had been with the traditional vegan mayo ingredients.
From there, as the now food lore goes, Sir Kensington’s went about creating a supply chain for aquafaba as one was non-existent. After an exhaustive search, Sir Kensington’s worked out a deal with Ithaca Hummus, a two-year-old company with the mission to make the freshest hummus possible. Before the partnership, Ithaca Hummus’s aquafaba was a waste byproduct of cooking chickpeas to make the hummus. It simply went down the drain when the chickpeas were done cooking. “We asked the owner,” says Villevielle, “Can we turn your waste stream into a revenue stream for you?” The answer was yes. The result: Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise and its cult-like following.
Within a year and a half, Sir Kensington’s had outgrown the volume of aquafaba that Ithaca Hummus could reasonably supply. The team started up a search for a new supply chain and what they found was surprising: Where there was supply, it was being used. “At an industrial level, people are using everything that comes their way. Nothing goes to waste,” says Villevielle.
Eventually, the team partnered with a company in Guadalajara that cooks chickpeas for hummus manufacturers to take their one product—chickpeas in the aquafaba—and split it into two—the chickpeas and the aquafaba.
Technically, Sir Kensinsgton’s no longer uses a food waste version of aquafaba for its Fabanaise, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t paved the way for other companies—or for home cooks—to do so. At home, Villevielle has used aquafaba in egg white foams for cocktails and even marshmallows. She’s also curious about its possible application in vegan cheeses.
“There is food waste everywhere, but the biggest problem to tackle now is at-home food waste. There is a lot of education that needs to happen there,” says Villevielle. “At the industrial level, they smartened up years ago due to economic incentives.” (Learn more about how to reduce your waste at home.)
As for other companies turning food waste into delicious food products, here are three that we admire for approaching the challenge in their own unique way.
Misfit Juicery: Not just another cold-pressed juice company, D.C.-based Misfit Juicery’s nutritious libations are made from 70-80 percent “recovered” produce, fruits and vegetables that would have been thrown away due to their imperfections or food scraps from fresh-cut products that would otherwise go to waste. The pulp from making juices is then composted and put back to use.
Back to the Roots: What started out as a fun (possibly whacky) idea to use recycled coffee grounds to grow at-home organic mushrooms is now a line of products sold in retailers across the country including Whole Foods, Target and Home Depot.
Imperfect Produce: The California-based produce subscription service delivers perfectly edible but imperfect (misshapen or slightly discolored) produce to your door. And, because the fruits and vegetables are visually flawed, they’re discounted 30-50%.