Increased innovation in the use of upcycling and food waste fuels

Cauê Suplicy, a former professional triathlete of Brazilian descent, has a mission to introduce Americans to healthier and better foods for the planet. He is the founder of Bernana, the # 1 organic plantain chip brand in the United States

In recent discussions with Cauê, I learned that during the epidemic, Bernana doubled its sales, continued to introduce new products, acquired its long-standing Latin American supply and production partner Agroapoyo, and assembled a world-class executive leadership team.

As both a Certified B Corporation and a Benefit Corporation, Cauê is particularly proud that its brand has experienced this growth while maintaining its core values, providing a network of 1,400 smallholder farmers – many of whom are indigenous to the Amazon – a 30% premium reproductive farm. Cultivation of organic bananas and bananas using the method.

He told me that the impact of this agricultural income has reached 6,000+ people directly and 3,000+ indirectly in rural Ecuador. Bernana was one of the first food brands to use upcycled raw materials to make its products and reduce climate-hazardous food waste. To date, Barnana has upped millions of bananas and bananas and helped catalyze the growing upcycled food movement. Below is a lightly edited excerpt from our discussion of Bernana and its effects.

Chris Marquis: As supply chain and production issues affect many areas of the global food supply chain, how has Bernana used the benefits of upcycling and food waste to achieve traction and make a difference by supporting sustainable agriculture and agro-industrial practices?

Supply: Sustainable ingredient sourcing is an important and complex part of global food system sourcing for organizations of any size. An important role for businesses that want to practice sustainability is to identify ways to create a market for all the indigenous crops currently growing. Often, sustainable supply options are simply not available for tapping, or introducing variables in production and distribution that can cause significant disruption to business models.

In the process of building Bernara’s supply chain, we have faced both food waste and the possibility of using upcycled bananas and bananas in our products. When it became known that 15% of bananas were not considered suitable for export as ready-made products for the market, we offered to buy them and at the same time create a new revenue stream for farmers unable to sell these fruits.

For large companies, sustainable supply chain practices may be hampered by their scales, which require sourcing components to meet market demand. On the other hand, small businesses like Bernana have more flexibility to adapt and lead through sustainable practice embedded in product sourcing, production and supply.

As a small sized organic snack food maker, the supply of organic ingredients that we offer can increase the speed of our business. In addition, as the demand from retailers and consumers increases, we continue to work directly with farmers to convert their land from conventional to organic farming methods.

Marquis: There is an idea in the agriculture / food industry that ‘going organic’, including taking the necessary practices to do it, can be expensive and challenging – yet Barnana has succeeded in doing so and has grown. What is the force in the game?

Supply: For Bernana and its production partner, Agroapoyo, it begins with training indigenous bananas and banana farmers as much as possible. It takes time to create a measurable organic supply of ingredients for any food business, so as the demand for our products grows, Bernana focuses on increasing the number of organic farmers. It takes time to convert conventional farmers and go organic and show them the value but once you start there is some snowball effect because other farmers see benefits not only in the short term financial gain but also in the long run as a more successful crop. Community. It encourages future generations to stay in the region and continue farming

For Bernana, the most important and fundamental thing is to give organic farmers a reasonable and sustainable rate for their crops. Otherwise, what needs to be done to transform and maintain the biological process will not be acceptable to them. While you may offer additional incentives, the primary is to provide a fair market rate and communicate the benefits of a long-term partnership. That said, for big food companies, it’s unrealistic to think or plan to be ‘organic’ and not expect to get a big hit on your bottom line. You have to think differently.

Marquis: How is Bernana helping the agricultural and farm communities to become more sustainable in one of the world’s most climate-affected regions?

Supply: Traders need to do more than fund to be sustainable. They need training, financing and infrastructure to create conditions that help farmers avoid intermediaries who take advantage of perishable crops.

We (indigenous) farmers pay more for their organic bananas and banana crops. These are perishable items that can only be sold up to a certain point in their ripening process. Since farmers do not have the financial resources to save their crops, these farmers have to resort to intermediaries who tend to buy advantageously at lower prices. As a supplier of Bernana, they have direct access to the global food market at a fair market price.

It is both knowing that their produce is valuable and that they can sell it at a fair price, which relieves a lot of stress for these farmers. Having a reliable source of revenue is the most important socio-economic factor in building a sustainable future for these communities. This prevents immigration to the city. If the children of this climate-relevant agricultural community cannot get a better life, they will leave. Non-natives or corporations can then move to these areas and start using sustainable practices.

Supporting agriculture in these major climate-valued areas also prevents the clearing of endangered forests and the introduction of invasive species. This is a very important, parallel effect.

Marquis: Will upcycling food waste become a turning point in achieving sustainable goals for the global food supply and agro-industry?

Supply: As a founding board member of the Upsicycling Food Association (UFA), Bernana was the first to talk about the sustainable benefits of upcycling. The organization’s goals are to educate and promote consumer interest and education in food waste issues. Just a few years ago, the term upcycling was virtually unknown, but in the last two years the number of UFA member companies has grown to 200.

Upcycling in general, especially in the case of food supplies, does not actually fit into the current supply chain, but instead needs to be modified to realize a growth phase for these influential environmental solutions. That journey is underway and retailers and consumers will see the value of such products and make an impact through the widespread adoption of the industry.

Marquis: How do new entrants to the food upcycling market need to balance financial and sustainable goals and interests in order to make a difference?

Supply: For Bernana, the entry point and focus began with farmers and production partners. We didn’t start our organic snack food business with upcycling, but we discovered it in creating supply chain processes. It is important for new entrants to understand that starting any enterprise will probably be more costly where supply chain innovation and product pricing play an important role in the market strategy. That’s why it’s important to understand the value your business and products (s) are bringing to customers.

The organic food industry was not so big, with the scale economy – the more products available, the more people buy. That said, there is still plenty of market incentives for farmers to grow soy and corn, but the higher the demand for organic, sustainable food products, the more consumers will be attracted to what is good for the planet and the big players in the food industry can help scale it. .

Marquis: Why did Barnana B Corp follow the certification? What did you learn through the certification process? What changes have you made to the company as a result?

SUPPLY: We were already doing a lot of the right things that have made the B Corp certification process fairly smooth knowing that we always want to do good for the planet with businesses based on a sustainability mission. Which means it’s about to be the most delusional time of the year, as well as the most delusional. The answer is “organic only” because that choice needs to be aligned with our values.

Although B Corp is not a regulatory body, we have a system of internal checks and continue to revisit those questions against the need for B Corp certification on a regular basis. Bernana is also proud to be a Legal Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) that demonstrates our long-term commitment to the company’s values.

Doing the right thing first is always going to be our focus. While there may always be reasons to change and adjust our business practices, it is best to align that set of values ​​as we develop our mission. As mature and scalable as B-Corps Bernana, they inspire future entrepreneurs to start businesses where triple bottom lines have been built into the business model.

In terms of the mindset of the company’s workforce as a B corporation, measuring things more important than proving that we are treating people and the planet well; It is also about ensuring that our business can be a force for positive change in the world.

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