The three most innovative sustainable foods on the market
Written by cookandculture | Edited by Aditi Khandelwal & Samantha Dang
According to Our World Data, food accounts for a total of a quarter of all the greenhouse gas emissions of the world. This 25% of greenhouse gas emissions can furthermore be broken up into four sectors: supply chain, livestock and fisheries, crop production, and land use. The highest of the four is livestock and fisheries, which accounts for 31% of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions from food. This sector has such high numbers because of the methane released when cattle undergo digestion. The next highest sector at 27% is crop production, which is needed for human and animal feed. At 24% is the land use aspect of food which can further be broken up into land use for humans and land use for livestock. Livestock need more land than humans do at 16% of total emissions relating to food, while humans only account for 8%. And finally, at 18% is the supply chain aspect of food production, which encompasses retail, transport, packaging, and processing. Because food plays such an important role in mitigating climate change, sustainable food production, sustainable agriculture, and sustainable food innovations are more important than ever in our society. Changing the way we go about food and its production and practices has huge effects on the environment and the future of our planet.
But what exactly is a sustainable food? The American Public Health Association defines a sustainable food system as “one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment.” This definition makes it seem like it is difficult to achieve the designation of a sustainable food, as there are quite a few requirements to meet. Minimal impact to the environment is tough to achieve, as many plants and animals take up huge amounts of land, resources such as water, and give off carbon emissions. Meeting current food needs is also a strenuous task at hand, as many countries are food deprived while others have food surpluses. Another aspect of the definition is a healthy food, or one that provides nutritional benefit. And finally, maintaining ecosystems is an overbearing task for many of the foods we enjoy today, as soil is degraded, trees are torn down, and ecosystems are ruined to keep up with our demand for food. There is no doubt that it is laborious to meet all the requirements to be named a sustainable food. My main question was: is it even possible to truly be a sustainable food?
As I delved into research, I found that a few brands are innovating new, creative foods, and yes they are sustainable! Not only do they meet every aspect of the sustainable food definition, but they also sound tasty and offer new solutions to our current food issues. So, here is my list of the top three most innovative and sustainable foods on the market:
The Algae Factory Chocolate Bars
I am starting off the sustainable food list with a food everyone loves and can get behind… innovative sustainable chocolate bars. Delicious! The Algae Factory was founded in 2014 by Stefania and Pierluig. This company’s focus is taking Spirulina, cyanobacteria that can be consumed by humans and animals, and using it in their products because it is a sustainable protein source. There are many health benefits of spirulina, as it is rich in essential nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and Omega 3 and 6 (The Algae Factory). Spirulina was nominated by the Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, as one of the most powerful tools to fight malnutrition, because of its health benefits and full nutritional profile. The Algae Factory currently sells three different chocolate bars:
- Extra Dark Chocolate and Hemp Seed Bar with Spiruilina
- Milk Chocolate Bar with Spiruilina
- Dark Chocolate Bar with Spirulina
All three of these chocolate bars are gluten free, while the two dark chocolate bars are vegan as well. These chocolate bars are deemed sustainable because they cause minimal impact to the environment. To produce one kilogram of spirulina, it takes 2.1 liters of water, 0.6 square meters of land, and one kilogram is 65% protein. In comparison, to produce one kilogram of beef, which is only 20% protein, it takes 105 liters of water and 190 square meters of land. Spirulina not only has more protein per kilogram, but uses lesser natural resources as well. Additionally, the cocoa beans needed to make the products are locally grown by a small community. Furthermore, the Algae Factory has a sustainability initiative set in place, called Bite4bite. “Every time you take a bite at our chocolate bars, you actively participate in building a Spirulina farm in Africa” (The Algae Factory). To take sustainability measures even further, The Algae Factory started a joint venture with Alga Tarifa SL which produces Spirulina in closed circuit and in total absence of external contamination, which allows the products to be pure and of superior quality. These products fit all the aspects of the definition of a sustainable food as The Algae Factory Chocolate bars help feed people in Africa, cause minimal environmental impact, maintain healthy ecosystems as cocoa is locally grown and harvested, and have high nutritional benefits. Not to mention, who doesn’t love chocolate? Especially with added nutritional value! You can get The Algae Factory chocolate bars on their website.
Bugsolutey Cricket Pasta
Next up on the list is another food that everyone loves: pasta. Great for a quick and easy meal and a delicious comfort food, pasta is prepared in many different ways all over the world. Fan favorites include spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo, and lasagna. So what makes Bugsolutely pasta different? Well…bugs, but specifically, crickets. Founded in 2016 by Massimo Reverberi, Bugsolutely Cricket pasta is an innovative and sustainable superfood containing 20% cricket flour. The nutritional values of cricket flour are exceptional; they include high levels of protein, non-dairy calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and Omega fatty acids (Bugsolutely). Surprisingly, cricket flour is 68% protein by weight, as opposed to chicken breast which is 31% and steak which is 29%. That means cricket pasta is a greater source of protein! In addition, crickets need little food and water as compared to other animals. They need roughly 1,000 times less resources than cows, making crickets a much more sustainable option! Furthermore, crickets require only 2 kg of feed to make 1 kg of protein, yet a cow needs 10 kg (Bugsoltley). This company is based in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand is the first and largest producer of crickets for human consumption. Due to its warm, humid tropical temperatures, it is the perfect place for cricket farming as other parts of the world would need to install heating systems, thus generating a higher carbon footprint. Currently, Bugsolutley’s only product is the cricket pasta, which can be ordered online through their website. The nutritional benefits of cricket pasta are undeniable, crickets cause little environmental impact, the ecosystem of Thailand is maintained as no new heating technology is needed, and crickets have the potential to meet food needs throughout the world as they are high in abundance and protein. Therefore, Bugsoluley’s cricket pasta is another innovative sustainable food!
I don’t know about you, but eating bugs doesn’t sound like the most appetizing thing to me. While some user reviews on the Bugsolutley website say that this pasta has an earthy taste that pairs great with mushroom sauce. Other users have said that they can’t taste a difference between whole wheat and cricket pasta, especially when prepared with sauces such as tomato sauce and olive oil, topped with parmesan cheese. Furthermore, this pasta looks normal and has the normal texture… So why not give this sustainable superfood a try? You can even prepare it for your family or roommates and see if they can guess the *secret* ingredient!
JADA Spices Chick’N Mix
And finally, who doesn’t love chicken patties or nuggets? Are you vegan or vegetarian? This plant-based sustainable chicken mix is for you too! JADA Spices was founded by Khasha Touloei, and originally was a company selling vegan chicken salt and other seasonings. Recently, the company created a brand new innovative sustainable food: Chick’N Mix. What exactly is Chick’N Mix, you ask? Well it can be anything you want! It is a dry plant mix where all you need to do is add water & oil to form a mince that can be shaped into anything; from patties, to nuggets, to meatballs. The ingredient list of the Chick’N Mix boils down to just 10 things: Wheat Protein, Pea Protein, Methyl Cellulose, Natural Flavor, Pea Fiber, Nutritional Yeast, Yeast Extracts, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, and Vitamin B12. Not to mention, there are 21 grams of protein per serving! Wheat is the main ingredient in this mix, which has a way smaller carbon footprint than meat. According to Peta, it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat, while it only takes 25 gallons of water to grow 1 pound of wheat. Furthermore, because this is a plant-based product, it maintains healthy ecosystems because wheat production takes up way less land than raising animals does. Therefore, this food has minimal environmental impacts, high nutritional benefit, and it maintains healthy ecosystems. Additionally, it can meet current food needs throughout the world because Chick’N Mix is sold on Amazon and thus is widely available!
Not convinced that this product would taste, well, right? Chick’N Mix was highlighted on the famous show SharkTank, and all the sharks could not believe how great the product tasted. Not to mention, there may have been a deal made, but I won’t spoil the episode for you! If you are unsure how to prepare Chick’N Mix, the options are endless. You can use it in place of tofu, turkey or chicken in veggie salads, meatballs, nuggets, burgers, sausages, chili, and strips in wraps. It is great with noodles, rice, and vegetables, according to Amazon, where you can buy the product for $12.99 for six servings of Chick’N Mix. Additionally, JADA Spices offers combos of the mix and their spices which include: the Original Chicken Salt, Reduced sodium chicken salt, Red Pepper chicken salt, Lime chicken salt, Barbeque chicken salt, and Turmeric salt.
The long term goal of food sustainability is to provide enough food for the growing population, as well as for the people of the future. It is up to each and every one of us to do our part in choosing sustainable foods. Some additional tips in eating sustainably include buying locally, reducing meat consumption, upping vegetable intake, and reducing your food waste. There are so many little ways through which you can make a difference and make it a fun experience by creating and trying out different foods and recipes!
Algae, plant-based powders, and foods containing bugs may be the solutions of the future. These superfoods provide nutritional benefit, they meet current food needs, they uphold current ecosystems, and they contribute to minimal environmental impacts.
So, which of these three innovative sustainable foods do you want to try? Let us know through our Instagram channel @cookandculture!
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