Turning food waste into profit

May 16, 2017
4 min read

Across the UK, fine dining chefs want people to stop thinking of rejected food and by-products of the food chain as waste. The aim is to make flavour a part of the food waste narrative and it involves taking a new approach to menu design and supporting local suppliers.

Here, we take a look at the new ways chefs are approaching the fight against food waste and the opportunities they’re unlocking:

Flavour Innovation

US chef Dan Barber ran a pop-up restaurant at Selfridges titled wastED in March 2017 that served lunch, afternoon tea and dinner made from by-products of the food chain. His menu re-invented classic dishes using the unique flavours and textures of rejected food. For example, the cheeseburger patties were made with a combination of fruit and vegetable juice pulp and dyed to a beef pink with sugar beet pulp while the burger buns were stale hamburger buns mixed with milk and water.

Through this opening, Barber wanted to highlight the value in the flavours of by-products and encourage people to actively seek them when eating out and cooking at home. By focusing on flavours and textures, Barber is inspiring the foodservice sector to look beyond simply using ugly vegetables on menus.


Jamie Oliver raised £500k from a dinner event on March 21st 2017 called CEO CookOff for UKHarvest. Part of the funds raised are now going UK schools who will receive a cookery lesson plan that aims to teach children how to cook with every part of the ingredient.

Oliver is venturing to change the food culture at a grassroots level through education. In addition to this however, he is also highlighting the change that is needed in the foodservice sector with the CEOs involved with the project – including Paul Pomroy from McDonald’s and Ewen Venters from Fortnum & Mason. This influential group will be the lynchpin of this cultural shift over time.


Chefs Skye Gyngell and Merlin Labron-Johnson are launching a six-course lunch made from edible food waste for the Evening Standard’s London Food Month in June 2017. Customers will eat dishes featuring rejected ingredients, such as off-cuts, leftovers, harvest surpluses and fruit peelings.

Gyngell and Labron-Johnson want to show how a meal made with rejected produce can be cheaper than and just as delicious as mainstream food. Food producers are more likely to sell off their harvest surpluses and meat trimmings/off-cuts at much lower prices than mainstream ingredients. As a result food operators can increase profit margins by using rejected ingredients that would otherwise end up in the bin.

Key trends to watch

As food waste is likely to become a more important issue in the coming years, we expect to see more innovative approaches to ‘waste’ ingredients in foodservice venues, including:

Aquafaba: the liquid drained from a can of chickpeas. It can be used as an egg white replacement. Derivatives include egg-free mayonnaise, soy-free cheese, dairy-free ice-cream, butter and meringues. Restaurants that currently offer hummus on their menus can use the aquafaba to create a free-from dessert to drum up interest in food waste ideas, as well as boost sales.

Juice pulp: the pulp left over from the cold-pressed juice industry can be re-purposed to be used as a meat substitute and cake dough. Derivatives include: gluten-free brownies, cakes, muffins, veggie burger patty and meatless meatballs. Restaurants that make fresh juices on-site can transform the pulp into a veggie burger to expand their vegetarian/vegan options and stretch profit margins at the same time.

Scratch menus: Spring, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant in Somerset House, London, offers a £20 pre-theatre scratch menu that features a three-course meal made from kitchen leftovers. For example, beetroot tops and potato skins are re-purposed to soups and stale bread is used to make bread puddings.

Foodservice Analyst at Mintel, Trish Caddy currently writes a range of UK foodservice reports and has been called upon by some of UK’s leading media to comment on key insights and trends shaping the UK eating-out market. Prior to joining Mintel,Trish worked as a chef in London.

Trish Caddy
Trish Caddy

Trish Caddy is a Senior Foodservice Analyst, writing reports about the UK’s eating out market. She previously worked as a restaurant cook in London.

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