The Food Industry has always been mindful of the waste or side-streams generated during processing or preparation of products or intermediates. Typically such streams have been sold for animal feed or have been used as feedstock for anaerobic digestion, with increasing interest in the operation of on-site AD facilities. Whilst these routes have benefits in helping to close the materials cycle and in reducing waste disposal, the full nutritional or material value of process streams may be underutilised, representing an unfulfilled opportunity.
An assessment of the characteristics of side or waste streams can identify value propositions and one challenge is then to design a process which can be integrated with existing infrastructures, which can efficiently separate or refine the desired stream components. Lessons must be drawn from successful examples of integration, including production of whey protein, fruit fibre and beta-carotene.
The implementation of new technologies may essential in developing business opportunities, although capital expenditure and development lead time all add to the investment risk. Ideally a company will already have experience of biorefining type activities, but risk reduction strategies will be vital in establishing new commercial directions, especially where the waste-derived product does not fit within the existing company markets. It may be difficult to assess the market size or profitability of a new or alternative product and new alliances may be required to secure commercial take up, which may take time and may evolve with consumer trends. The key features of successful scenarios must be identified and learning assimilated into new business models.