Co-branding collaboration: CRUST reveals new model to help big food firms benefit from upcycling
CRUST is best-known for the creation of its upcycled beer made using surplus bread from bakeries and e-commerce platforms, and also recently soft-launched an upcycled non-alcoholic beverage line CROP after various challenges in 2021, aiming for a full-scale launch in March 2022.
According to CRUST Group Founder and CEO Travin Singh, in addition to the firm’s conventional business model of producing and selling its own upcycled products, it is also adding a new business model which has been dubbed ‘Sustainable Unique Label’ or SUL, which will see the firm coming in as an R&D partner for other food and beverage firms to work on the development of unique upcycled products.
“The target in particular will be big food firms that have a lot of food waste left over from their production operations which they would usually donate or throw away, as currently most of them are not aware or not able to upcycled this waste,” Travin told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“So what we hope to do is to come in and help with the research and development, to co-create a co-branded line of upcycled products in collaboration with these firms – this will give them more autonomy over what happens to their food waste, as well as an additional new brand that is more sustainable and helps to reduce waste.”
At present, CRUST is already working in collaboration with big firms like Gardenia to collect excess bread for its upcycled beer, but for the SUL model it is also targeting group or conglomerate level brands that include not only manufacturers but also foodservice and retailers in order to do this.
“In Singapore, we’ve worked with foodservice chains like Tiong Bahru Bakery and Salad Stop in the last year, and are planning to launch something with Dairy Farm soon; whereas in our Japan office we’ve also worked with Ritz Carlton Osaka, Aman Tokyo and a well-known curry rice chain,” said Travin.
“In addition to SULs, we’re also planning to do a lot more in terms of special projects with high PR value to bring up consumer awareness of upcycled products, e.g. last year we were the official partner of the Singapore Food Festival where we worked with Gardenia and used a herb locally grown in Gardens By The Bay, lemon myrtle, as a means of substituting hops in beer brewing.
“This is an example of what we hope to do in terms of improving trade and the supply chain as well, to keep things hyper-local such that local brewers don’t need to depend on hops being flown in from overseas, and Singapore need not worry as much about supply chain or distance issues as there is a locally-grown substitute available.”
CRUST’s new non-alcoholic beverage line CROP is expected to launch this year, and will comprise of beverages such as sodas and sparkling water upcycled from fruit and vegetable waste.
“CROP also has an additional good point of marketing which is that it is a functional drink, as it contains parabiotics (compounds containing inactivated unused parts of probiotics) that are believed to improve microbiome health,” he said.
“CROP will also be launched in Japan in Q2 2022, and Japan is a very important market for us as it is the third largest economy in the region and we need to focus resources to grow here as the market is really a lot larger.”
Despite its current tight focus on beverages, CRUST’s final goal is to go into upcycling for other sectors including food and packaging applications.
“This is all what we call part of the CRUST universe, as in the long term the plan is definitely not just to stick with beverages but to go into more areas – it’s just that right now we need to stabilize the beverage business first and build up enough revenue so that we can comfortably move into the other areas,” said Travin.
“We have been doing the relevant R&D though – for example, we’ve used the spent grain from our beer which is high in protein and fibre to convert into a pancake mix, so we know things like this are possible.
“As for packaging, we know this is important as many consumers have been asking us the question of whether our labels are also made from paper or upcycled since our product focus is on upcycling.
“At the moment it’s hard in Singapore due to the high cost and because we don’t have our own production facility as of yet, but as we sell more of the SUL model and get more retention and demand, we will then be able to justify the building of our own facility to maximise it, otherwise we would have to be very revenue-focused to make back the OPEX and CAPEX costs.”
The firm’s next stop will be Taiwan, where Travin aims to set up in April or May this year, and back in Singapore the aim is to get on more e-retailers over the next two quarters as well as Dairy Farm stores, to supplement CRUST’s current presence in FairPrice Finest stores.