Around the world, about 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year. However, more and more innovators are finding ways to reuse this waste and extract greater value from it. Recently, the beauty industry has been re-engineering food waste into popular, natural ingredients and formulas. Let’s learn more!

The Problem of Food Waste

Globally, food waste is an enormous problem. The production of food requires a massive investment in land, labor, and water, giving food waste a greater economic and environmental impact than other types of waste. Unfortunately, nearly one third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted globally, much of it in the fruit and vegetable industry. Many portions of the plants that are grown are indigestible or unattractive to humans, creating waste of seeds, skins, stems, or plants that are too small, off-color, or unsaleable for other reasons. While we can encourage consumers to shop more wisely and reduce waste at home, how can we also reduce and re-use industrial food waste? 

Beautiful Compounds in Food Waste

Even though the waste and scraps from fruit and vegetables may not be attractive or edible for people, these foods are loaded with compounds that are important for the beauty industry. Fruit and vegetable waste products are rich in bioactive compounds including:

  • Anti-oxidants
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Polyphenols
  • Flavonoids
  • Stilbenes
  • Phenolic acids
  • Enzymes
  • Carotenoids
  • Plant-based proteins

When these extracts are derived from plants, they also meet consumer demand for beauty products that are natural and sustainable, making this type of re-engineering a great solution from a marketing as well as formulation perspective. 

How Beauty Ingredients are Derived from Food Waste

Only the waste from organically grown fruits and vegetables is considered suitable for ingredient extraction and re-engineering, which currently limits the value of many types of food waste for these processes. Generally speaking, ingredient extraction follows this process:

  1. Fruit and vegetable waste is washed to remove foreign objects and contaminants
  2. The produce is mashed, and then the mash is heated
  3. Heated mash is often treated with enzymes to break down cell walls and improve extraction
  4. A mechanical press separates liquids and solids
  5. Liquid juices are centrifuged and pasteurized to preserve them
  6. Solid pomaces are dried to preserve them
  7. Bioactive ingredients are extracted from the pomace using a wide range of processes, including heating with solvents, microwave, ultrasound, infrared, or other processes 

Each drying and extraction method preserves and extracts some compounds while destroying or eliminating others, creating a huge variety of extraction conditions for the desired objectives. Drying and extraction methods also influence the final appearance, color, and porosity of the compounds, adding appealing colors, fragrances, and flavors to the final product. 

Major cosmetics brands are investing more and more in biocosmetics, and finding new and better ways to source healthy, natural, sustainable skincare ingredients. Repurposing of pre-consumer food waste is a fantastic way to meet the needs of companies, consumers, and the environment, and we look forward to seeing more of these types of advances in the future.