Deutsch is a professor of culinary arts and food science and director of the Center for Hospitality and Sports Management.
Ayaz is an assistant research professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.
Suri is a marketing professor in the LeBow College of Business.
American households are estimated to collectively throw away 80 billion pounds of food each year. Many ingredients are also discarded during the manufacturing process and perfectly edible produce deemed ugly doesn’t make it to grocery displays. Meanwhile, more than 42 million Americans experience food insecurity.
To address the problem, Drexel researchers set out to learn whether people would eat products made from what would have become food waste. They found out that consumers might even prefer it.
The research sought to discover if foods made from surplus ingredients — termed value-added surplus products (VASP) — that would have been otherwise wasted can offer environmental, nutritional, financial and gastronomic benefits if appropriately marketed to consumers.
“There is an economic, environmental and cultural argument for keeping food, when possible, as food and not trash,” says Jonathan Deutsch, a professor in the Center for Food and Hospitality Management and in the Department of Nutrition Sciences in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.
Rescued Relish is a prototype for a condiment made from excess grocery produce and distributed by Philabundance, a Philadelphia anti-hunger organization, under the brand name Abundantly Good.
“Converting surplus foods into value-added products will feed people, create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, and lower the environmental impact of wasted resources,” says Deutsch, who has created “upcycled” products with the Drexel Food Lab in the past.
_TERM: VALUE-ADDED SURPLUS PRODUCT (VASP)
“A food category coined by researchers to describe foods created from surplus ingredients or ingredients obtained during the manufacturing of other foods.”
The researchers conducted a series of tests as a first attempt to understand a consumer’s decision-making process with respect to the new food category of value-added surplus foods. They examined three product cues for value-added surplus products: product description, label and benefit (to self or others).
The results showed that participants clearly identified value-added surplus foods as a unique category with unique perception, separate from organic and conventional categories, and that they believed consuming valued-added surplus products would generate benefits for people other than themselves.
Not only could these types of foods be a good thing for society as a whole, but they could also prove lucrative.
“Depending upon how you communicate such products, they might also be able to fetch a price premium, like those afforded to organic foods,” says Rajneesh Suri, professor and vice dean for research and strategic partnerships in the LeBow College of Business.