- Scottish startup Revive Eco is producing natural oils from used coffee grounds it collects from cafes and coffee roasters to produce a more sustainable and environmentally friendly substitute for palm oil, according to Food Ingredients First.
- Revive Eco co-founders Fergus Moore and Scott Kennedy told the publication that manufacturers are under pressure to find alternatives to palm oil as consumers concerned about its environmental and human costs turn away from the ingredient.
- Revive Eco is launching a demonstration unit later this year and plans to roll out expanded operations in 2020, according to Food Ingredients First.
After collecting coffee grounds from various cafes and coffee shops, Revive Eco transports them to a recycling plant and reduces them into natural oils, which can be used in a variety of food and beverage products. The company is still in the early stages of development, but will be looking to expand soon.
As sustainability and food waste become increasingly important factors in food products, the company could have an advantage. More than 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed across the globe every day and most of the grounds used to make them are thrown away. Six million tons are sent to landfills every year, according to the World Economic Forum.
It's hard to tell at this stage whether Revive Eco's approach will provide a viable solution for cutting down on palm oil use. The company will likely need to raise a lot more money in order to scale up production and distribution, plus the co-founders will need to convince food manufacturers that oil from spent coffee grounds can replace the cheap and plentiful palm oil they've been using. However, Innova Market Insights reported that palm oil-free products saw a 73% compound annual growth rate from 2015 to 2017, according to Food Ingredients First. Bakery products make up the bulk of new items with this claim — 55% of the launches came from this segment. It's followed by spreads, which had 7% of the launches, and cereals, with 5%.
So far, Revive Eco primarily raised funds through awards and competitions. It recently moved into a Glasgow business accelerator space. The company received $305,118 from the Zero Waste Scotland agency and could secure additional funding from the Chivas Venture final competition in Amsterdam, where it is representing Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The company's oil extraction process could prove to be a good use for spent coffee grounds if it were adapted in other countries, so the waste problem might be tackled in a coordinated manner. But coffee grounds can be used for applications besides food. The World Economic Forum recently noted that Dunkin' built a tiny home powered solely by biofuel made from coffee oil.
Meanwhile, several large CPG companies are taking steps to source palm oil from areas and suppliers not linked to deforestation, child labor and wildlife habitat destruction. In 2014, Mondelez met its benchmark of using palm oil 100% certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an international not-for-profit group dedicated to ensuring the ingredient comes from good sources. Rainforest Action Network has claimed Nestlé, Mars and Hershey have all broken their commitments to quit using palm oil sourced from rainforests in their products.
If used coffee grounds can make an ingredient to replace palm oil in sufficient amounts and at a reasonable cost, manufacturers might want to take a close look at the possibility. Those making a switch to more sustainable oil might win over consumers by boosting their environmental credentials and achieving a competitive edge.