- Rise Products, a startup that converts spent beer grain from several craft brewers in Brooklyn into a flour, is finding its way into sustainable bakeries and kitchens in New York and as far away as Italy, according to The New York Times.
- Besides being a sustainable practice, the flour is also notable for its health benefits. Since most of the sugar is removed during the beer making process, Rise flour has one-third the carbohydrates of traditional all-purpose flour. Because it’s made from barley, it has twice the protein and 12 times the fiber.
- The process to convert the grains to flour is done entirely by hand. It takes about four and a half pounds of grain to make one pound of flour. It costs $8 a pound wholesale and $16 retail.
In today’s world, sustainable business practices are no longer the exception across food and beverage industries. In fact, Nielsen found that a company’s commitment to this cause can sway product purchases for 45% of consumers.
With financial well-being on the line, everyone from industry titans like Tyson to small craft breweries in Brooklyn is searching for ways that they can repurpose their byproducts into a healthy and sustainable food source. The beer industry has for years used its grains for animal feed, compost, fuel and the British favorite Marmite, but there are still plenty of leftovers that are simply disposed. Spent grains — which account for about 85% of the byproduct from beer production — make up the equivalent of a pound or more per six-pack. So why not make flour?
The idea of barley flour made from beer waste is an attractive one. It not only tastes good, but it checks the sustainability and clean eating boxes that so many consumers want. Companies who are looking to align themselves with those values will pay for it.
In an industry with tight margins, sustainability claims on packaging gives companies an additional edge over competitors. While it can be pricey to switch over to sustainable practices, there is a monetary motivation to make the switch. According to Nielsen, 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands.
Plus, since most beer grain is barley, it has great potential to be used as a flour in recipes. Barley has the taste of brown rice without the heft, and lends itself well to being cut with traditional all-purpose flour to give recipes a more whole grain taste. It has the health benefits associated with ancient grains, as well as the potential to encourage bakers’ creativity.
Still, the cost of adopting sustainably produced ingredients can be prohibitive and tends to affect smaller companies more than larger ones. Rise Products has managed to target both markets early on with small Brooklyn bakeries buying the flour, as well as big brands requesting samples. According to The New York Times, Rise partners say Kellogg’s, Whole Foods and contract manufacturers for Nestlé and its subsidiary DiGiorno Pizza have all expressed interest.
Rise Products is not the only one producing flour from spent beer grains. Barilla, the Italian pasta maker, has invested in ReGrained, a small start-up in the Bay Area that is making granola bars with brewery leftovers and its own spent-grain flour.
Even if Rise is not a pioneer, with so much force behind sustainable business practices, repurposing beer grains is likely to become a continuous trend. After all, it’s highly unlikely that people will stop drinking beer.