Using their loaf: Collaboration is key to breaking niche for upcycled foods in Asia – Brewerkz, Baker & Cook

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Singapore-based Brewerkz and Baker & Cook have partnered up to launch a new beer and sourdough bread made with upcycled materials from each firm. ©Brewerkz and Baker & Cook
Singapore-based Brewerkz and Baker & Cook have partnered up to launch a new beer and sourdough bread made with upcycled materials from each firm. ©Brewerkz and Baker & Cook

Related tags upcycled ingredients upcycled foods Singapore Sustainability Food waste

Singapore-based companies Brewerkz and Baker & Cook envision upcycled foods to be a major trend in the next few years, with collaboration between F&B manufacturers playing a crucial role in raising awareness and uptake of such products.

Brewerkz and Baker & Cook have partnered up to launch a new beer and sourdough bread made with upcycled materials from each firm. 

Even prior to the pandemic, sustainability has always been on our radar. I was very intrigued by overseas craft breweries that do sourdough upcycling, but could not find someone in Singapore focusing on this. When Brewerkz expressed their interest in expanding their portfolio of sustainable products and approached us, it was a perfect match,”​ Dean Brettschneider, founder of Baker & Cook, told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

According to Tan Wee Tuck, co-owner and managing director of Brewerkz, the plan was to create a sustainable beer using surplus bread, and at the same time, find a partner to use the firm’s brewer’s spent grains named NEWGrain+ for food products.

While food upcycling has been “happening for a long time” in Germany, and is gaining popularity in the US and Europe, Brettschneider believes that it is still a relatively niche sector in Asia, and that collaboration is key for it to become commonplace.

“In a sense, it doesn’t cost us anything for the spent grains and it doesn’t cost Brewerkz anything for our sourdough. The collaboration enables us to leverage each other’s by-products, which would otherwise be recyclable materials waiting to catch attention. By having two reasonably strong brands come together, there will be much more spotlight [on them],” ​he added.

Brettschneider considers Singapore as an ideal market to launch because local consumers are naturally more open to novel and foreign foods due to the country’s multiculturalism.

“We’ve got to start somewhere. I think Singapore is not as niche as other markets within South East Asia (SEA). I’m sure that there will be other countries, especially in SEA, looking at what we’re doing. With the outburst of coffee shops and craft breweries in the region, small businesses need to collaborate to follow our footsteps.

“If it can be done on this small island, it can be done in places like Indonesia, Jakarta or Bangkok, where there are a number of artisans and smaller-scale producers that want to do something about food waste,” ​Brettschneider shared.

On the same note, Tan said that there remains “a tremendous amount of work” in terms of upcycling.

F&B manufacturers have not seriously started on food waste and upcycling. Sometimes, we need to lead the consumers [in offering more sustainable products], and not wait for consumers to lead us. Upcycled foods will be a major trend in the next few years. There is too much food loss and food wastage around the world. If we can focus on plastic bags, we definitely can work on food upcycling.”

Permanent potential

The Earthbrew Sourdough Pale Ale is brewed using surplus sourdough bread from Baker & Cook, and the NEWGrain+ Sourdough is made using brewer’s spent grains from Brewerkz.

It took rounds of trial and error before the companies finalised the products. In particular, the amount of spent grains in the sourdough was increased from 10% to 20% and finally to 30% during the R&D process.

“We wanted people to get some dietary fibre content out of it. What you see today has a lot of fibre in it, and is not overly dry with a crispy texture. We have a whole range of breads, but consumers are recognising that the NEWGrain+ Sourdough is not just a nicely flavoured loaf of bread.

“People who care about food waste are picking it up and loving what we are doing. On top of that, they are getting more functional benefit than say a cinnamon raisin loaf,”​ Brettschneider explained.

Sharing the sentiment, Tan added that sustainability is becoming an important differentiator, since many products in the market taste good and are priced competitively.

The beer is available in 330ml cans and on tap at Brewerkz restaurants and Baker & Cook Dempsey, while the sourdough is sold at Baker & Cook stores and on its website, as well as delivery platforms.

Both firms hope to include the products in their permanent portfolio and to expand the distribution channels over time.

For Baker & Cook, it plans to add the NEWGrain+ Sourdough into its range of sliced breads that have been retailing in supermarkets and e-commerce platforms like RedMart for several years.

“We are working to stock it at FairPrice and Cold Storage within the next three or four months, so it can reach more people beyond our bakeries. I believe they are going to be quite keen [to have us] because if anybody’s interested in food waste, it should be the supermarket,” ​said Brettschneider.

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