Food innovation powered by polyphenols:
Grape pomace up-cycled into sustainable, healthy food ingredients
By Lilian Schaer for Bioenterprise Canada
A British Columbia-based company has pioneered a proprietary new process to up-cycle grape pomace – the skins and seeds left over from winemaking – into valuable food ingredients that address key challenges faced by food manufacturers, such as sugar and sodium reduction.
Crush Dynamics Inc., established in B.C.’s wine country in 2016, is using targeted fermentation to bio-transform naturally occurring polyphenol compounds found in grapes into an ingredient that has many functional properties for the food and beverage world.
It’s estimated that wineries dispose of about one litre of edible grape waste for every two litres wine, or about one third of each wine grape. Currently this waste mostly goes into landfill, contributing to carbon dioxide emissions, and costing wineries money in disposal costs.
“What we do is upcycle the grape pomace into an extremely functional ingredient that can help reduce the amount of sugar, salt and preservatives used in food and beverage production,” says Shaun Richmond, Vice President of Sales at Crush Dynamics.
“Government regulators around the world are starting to mandate changes around food ingredients, like less salt, sugar and fat, and that is coming to Canada as well, so there’s a need to drive awareness in the food industry,” adds CEO Kirk Moir.
The first product Crush Dynamics brought to market is a purée in two different colours. Ruby Purée is compatible with darker-tone formulations such as sauces, chocolate, and red meat alternatives, and Gold Purée is targeted at plant-based dairy and chicken alternatives, lighter sauces, sports nutrition, and breads.
The purées are commercially available and already in use in consumer-packaged goods across North America. The company is now close to launching its next product, a proprietary low-heat drying process that can take the purée into a dried concentrate format that will provide the same functionality but with a longer shelf-life and easier shipping around the world.
“We do really well with flagship brands who are looking to reinvent their product to reduce sodium, reduce sugar, extend shelf life and have a clean label,” Richmond says. “We can help them pull a few things off the label by replacing some of their existing ingredients to get their products Gen Z-ready.”
Currently, Crush Dynamics works with world renowned wineries in British Columbia – it’s estimated that the Okanagan Valley alone generates approximately 12,000 tonnes of grape pomace annually – but the long-term goal is to scale-up the process to other wine regions around the world.
Last year, the company became a member of Bioenterprise Canada, whose team has provided considerable business development and management support to Crush Dynamics since then. Moir points in particular to the expertise of Bioenterprise’s board chair Colin Farnum, who is also a food-focused innovation advisor for the organization, and Michael McGee, Bioenterprise’s Director of Innovation.
“Colin’s deep understanding and connectivity in the food industry has been so valuable in pointing us in the right directions and getting us to the right people,” Moir explains. “Together with Mike, they’ve been great at helping us with categories, our financing strategy and thinking through sources for funding. It’s incredible how much value Bioenterprise has delivered to us in under a year.”
Earlier this year, Crush Dynamics was selected to the FoodTech 500, ranking in the top 350 of the world’s most ground-breaking companies in the realm of food, technology, and sustainability. The ranking attracted over 7,500 applications from 67 countries.
“This is more than a product, it’s a technology that can be used in many different agricultural side-streams,” adds Richmond.
The company’s immediate plans are focused on continuing scale-up to ultimately enable expansion into other wine-growing regions and find global markets for their products. They’re also continuing product development, including working with a global flavour house to launch an ingredient that can be used in clear beverages without creating colour and sediment issues.
Bioenterprise is Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine, a national agri-technology focused commercialization accelerator. Bioenterprise uses its 20 years of industry experience and a global network of experts, mentors, funders, researchers, and industry partners to help small- and medium-sized agri-food businesses connect, innovate and grow.