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Upcycling Beer Waste Into Baked Goods With 'Susgrainable'

“It’s about resource efficiency not just capital efficiency.”— Marc Wandler


Have you ever tried upcycled banana bread or sustainable chocolate chip cookies? Recently, I was introduced to a company in Vancouver, Canada, which turned the baking world on its head. They take beer waste, dry it, make flour, and turn it into delicious consumer packaged products for all to enjoy. This start-up in Canada is turning used Barley into some of our favorite baking mixes on grocery store shelves. Prepping for a conversation with Susgrainable’s founder and CEO, Marc Wandler, I couldn’t help but think about what it takes to source and secure brewer’s waste, gain commitment from beer makers, truck it, and prepare for production. Marc was excited to share how he and his co-founder, Clinton Bishop, started diverting that waste and making some delicious baked goods.

Addressing A Circular Business Model

What began as a project in 2019 at the University of British Columbia’s graduate school for Marc, using a circular economy business model, became a much bigger opportunity. Susgrainable was built on the premise of resource efficiency and product life extension. Reaching out to Clinton in the early days, they worked together to understand better the aspects of waste and imperfect products; tapping into Clinton’s experience as a barley farmer and with food safety regulations helped them expand on searching for healthy ways to use spent barley grains through upcycling flour and ultimately consumer products.


From there, Marc drew interest from his peers, who were also keen on the aspects of resource recovery, closing the loop, and narrowing flows of waste stream opportunities. As they built the model, they knew Susgrainable could reduce our environmental footprint and improve nutrition. In essence, Susgrainble set out to extend the life of that Barley after it had been boiled, sugars extracted, and set aside for the hopper, then onto a landfill for compaction or a farm for animal feed supplements. Neither is a wrong solution, but taking that grain and making cookies, sweet bread, pancake and waffle mix, and pizza dough is smart. Instead of landfill compaction, reusing the spent grains provides a new recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies and a healthy solution!


As our conversation took off, Marc piqued my curiosity about how he was able to raise the initial funding for the Proof of Concept while attending school. He is bold and takes strategically calculated risks, so he explored ways to raise awareness and finances simultaneously. While working on the project, Marc explained that he took inspiration from his undergrad days, where he began playing online poker and turned $10 won off a free tournament into $25,000. Some of these funds, which had grown through other investments, were used to jump-start the test market, showcasing the product through community outreach and local farmers' markets. To date, he and Clinton have raised over $300,000 on Kickstarter and with Family & Friends investor rounds. In addition, they built the framework for their share structure, scaling, and future investments. Susgrainable has secured multiple grants worth over $200,000 to launch operations and test the metrics of the business.


Everyone on the team works to handle all aspects of the day-to-day: milling, baking, packaging, and digital media. This team uses every moment to levitate their brand, and for good reason. Clinton managed operations boots on the ground daily for 3+ years, making the Chocolate Chip Cookies for trade shows and markets, paying attention to every detail - even the toasted Pecans' placement in the cookie's center. These details are essential in a test kitchen, and they pride themselves on their ability to bring their products to market. While they have grown since those early days and now have partners assisting throughout the operation, that same attention to detail can still be witnessed today. They have community support, where customers and local food hubs make products like homemade pasta, sharing their experiences on social media for all to embrace. The customer base believes in the products, so their packaged goods fly off the shelves. If you are still looking for it at your local grocery store, click the website and place your order online through Susgrainable.

Foraging and Farming

Susgrainable’s Market

Beer waste is known as Brewer’s Spent Grains (BSG), the primary solid waste source of brewing. A waste stream is the brewing cycle's leftovers and liquids, such as Trub and Yeast, and they are typically dealt with through renewable resource management. Storing the BSG is problematic due to spoilage and needs to be used quickly to become a value-added product. Marc explained that Susgrainable is in front of that challenge and making strides. Clinton runs the trucking operations, arranging timely pick-up with their suppliers and expediting truckloads to their plant and commercial kitchen for immediate processing. Susgrainable works with many suppliers to procure products for their CPG. But BSG is a large part of their day when scheduling and handling trucking efficiencies. It is about to be amplified with their new facility scheduled for launch in 2024 capable of processing over 2,000 tons annually. They work with six craft breweries in the local marketplace: Monkey Nine Brewing, Faculty Brewing, R & B Brewing, Dogwood Brewing, and The Parkside Brewery. Together, they have rescued almost 15 tons/12,500kg, and in 2024, with the expanded workspace and brewery partnerships they are on track to meeting their goals.


Once the BSG is in-house, they run it through a dehydrator and prepare it for milling. Susgrainable makes the flour and builds the recipes for their Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) and bulk flour sales to interested commercial bakeries and commissary kitchens. The bulk flour sales is slated to begin in Q2 2024. Marc and Clinton are navigating the delicate balance of their product suite's reuse and redesign aspects, diligently supporting their customer base, and maintaining shelf space at Whole Foods, Safeway, Stong’s Market, Thrifty Foods, and several other organizations supporting their goals. They are also exploring synergies with natural health and pet food companies.


Growth and Objectives

The demand for offloading BSG to Susgrainable continues to grow, and with a mission of rescuing over 450,000 tons of spent grains, that is no small feat. Marc and Clinton have just purchased an additional dehydrator to handle the increasing flow, and they will need a new warehouse and enhanced trucking operations by 2025. Susgrainable employs eight full-time employees and twelve contractors to date, and that headcount continues to be rationalized for expansion. The team has generated a lot of momentum, and their customers and advocates are passionate about bringing recipes forward for all to share.


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