ROCKSTAR UNPLUGS

Rockstar Energy Drink wants to lift consumers’ energy levels and spirits. The company is releasing a new kind of energy drink with the launch of Rockstar Unplugged. It focuses less on providing a big hit of energy and more on enhancing good vibes. The sugar-free, calorie-free beverage combines hemp seed oil, B vitamins, spearmint and lemon balm with 80 milligrams of caffeine.

In a release, Fabiola Torres, PepsiCo general manager and chief marketing officer of the energy category, said more than 90% of consumers say they want a beverage that lifts their mood. A new partnership with MTV will spotlight Rockstar Unplugged and launch a three-part music series.

“MTV’s legacy is grounded in speaking to young people with content and experiences that matter to them,” said Jason White, chief marketing officer, MTV Entertainment Group. “This partnership with Rockstar Unplugged enables us to extend the iconic MTV Unplugged franchise to a new generation of music fans.”

PLANET BASED FOODS DEBUTS

Do you want fries with that? Planet Based Foods announced the launch of its debut frozen food line for consumers craving plant-based protein they can make at home. The Original Hemp Burger, Green Chili Southwest Burger, Breakfast Sausage, Italian Crumble and Original Crumble are now available in the freezer aisle. Planet Based Foods is one of the first food companies to use hemp seed as a protein source.

Planet Based Foods is on a mission to establish hemp as a nutrient-dense protein source that can feed the world sustainably for generations to come, said Braelyn Davis, CEO and co-founder.

“We see hemp as an untapped natural resource that delivers nutrition and sustainability benefits, and is uniquely suited to thrive in the face of climate change,” she said. “We believe in the potential for our hemp-based products to play a role in addressing major food system challenges while delighting discerning values-driven customers.”

OREO GETS CHILLY

Fans of Oreo cookies have a new way to enjoy the classic chocolate sandwich cookie. Oreos are coming to the freezer aisle with the launch of a new line of frozen treats. Ranging from tubs and bars to cones and sandwiches, the new treats are a “playfully reimagined take on the classic chocolate sandwich cookie,” the company said.

“Created for our most loyal fans, we have perfected the Oreo Frozen Treats recipes to deliver the signature Oreo flavor in every bite,” said Justin Parnell, vice president, Oreo U.S.

Oreo said the new frozen recipes were perfected to ensure the familiar and authentic taste of real Oreo cookies are in every bite. Think: Oreo creme-flavored frozen dairy dessert, crumbled cookie pieces and chocolatey cones, the company said. For its biggest fans, Oreo launched a new digital campaign, “The Real One is Finally Here,” created in celebration of this freezer aisle debut. It celebrates the brand’s most dedicated fans (the “Real Ones”) for whom the frozen treat range was created.



Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle

Upcycled foods are a thing. Here’s what you need to know.

A coffee shop selling lattes produces coffee grounds. Breweries produce spent grain. Instead of paying to haul away that waste, business owners can invest a little money and make a return. It’s called upcycling, and it’s making waves.

In fact, in late 2021, Del Monte Foods made its green beans a little bit greener, announcing one of the industry’s first canned vegetable products to be certified by the Upcycled Food Association. The brand’s Blue Lake Petite Cut and Blue Lake Farmhouse Cut Green Beans are made with 100% upcycled and sustainably grown beans.

The Upcycled Food Association is a nonprofit focused on preventing food waste by growing the upcycled food economy. Started in 2019, the organization educates consumers and provides a way for businesses to work together to turn food byproducts that would otherwise be wasted into valuable goods.

So how exactly does a company upcycle food? The process looks different for each product, said Turner Wyatt, Upcycled Food Association CEO and co-founder.

In a macro sense, it is all about taking something that would otherwise go to waste and using it to make an ingredient for a new, higher value product. That can extend to more than just food. Those byproducts can be turned into things such as pet kibble and cosmetics.

“They’re really not byproducts, just other ingredients that are manufactured alongside the primary food product that’s being manufactured,” he said. “But they would have otherwise gone to waste and, therefore, all the resources — land, water, energy — that went into creating those ingredients in the first place go to waste if you let the product go to waste.”

Just like any other food product, too, he added, companies must comply with local, regional and national health and safety standards while upcycling products.

“Upcycled products have to undergo the same health, safety, licensure, regulatory everything as any other food,” Wyatt said. “If you want to treat your coffee grounds as a food ingredient, then you have to treat them as a food ingredient.”

According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report published in 2021 on the environmental impacts of food waste, the agency estimated that United States food loss and waste embodies 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions (excluding landfill emissions) each year, equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants.

“We all learned as children, ‘Don’t waste food, food waste is bad,’ ” Wyatt said. “It doesn’t matter where you are on the political spectrum or where you are in the world, everyone knows that food waste is bad.”

Wyatt said we’re at a point in history when sustainability is a decision driver. Food waste is also much more of a front-of-mind problem as consumers seek to buy from companies whose values align with their own. Plus, they desire more sustainable products and care more about the global implications of food waste. On average, Wyatt said, Americans waste around $1,500 worth of food every year, so there’s also fiscal incentive.

“It’s a huge opportunity for brands and any food company to connect with consumers in a new way and to meet a more modern need of consumers to have more sustainable products in a very straightforward process,” Wyatt said.

A good place for companies to start on their upcycling food journeys is to become a member of the Upcycled Food Association, Wyatt said. Made up of folks from around the world, the association uses research, strategy, networking and policy advocacy to “build a food system in which all food is elevated to its highest and best use.”

Already using a leftover product? Get it Upcycled Certified to prove you’re having a meaningful impact on food waste. Created by the association, the Upcycled Certified Program is one of the world’s first third-party certification programs for upcycled food ingredients and products. The flagship of the program is its on-package label.



Tunnel Vision

A new Purdue University study looks at questions about pest control when using high tunnels to extend growing seasons.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Small farmers across the United States use high tunnels to extend their growing season, something known to present different pest problems compared to open field production. However, as community farms grow to fill in for urban and rural food deserts, researchers see a gap in an understanding of how pest pressures vary depending on whether the high tunnels are located in the city or country.

Laura Ingwell, an assistant professor of entomology at Purdue University, has been addressing these questions and works with specialty-crop farmers across the Midwest. She now leads a $3.7 million Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture project through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The four-year project will lead to integrated pest management (IPM) and crop management recommendations, as well as an online tool to help farmers decide what approach would improve their profit.

“We want to understand the environmental constraints for the plants and pests in high tunnels throughout the seasons, and how pest pressures may differ across the urban to rural landscape,” Ingwell said. “The goal is to help growers improve yields and profits, and to improve food security for local communities and sustainable practices for all growers.”

High tunnels are plastic barriers that cover crops and come in many shapes and sizes. Most are used to protect specialty crops, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and melons, from cold weather and rainfall. Ingwell hopes to study a variety of high tunnels, crops and growing practices.

The team will deploy weather stations to track air and soil temperatures, and humidity both inside and outside of the tunnels. They also will directly monitor pests and beneficial insects through site visits and passive traps.

The team will collect data to build an online tool to calculate whether an investment in an integrated pest management strategy or crop diversification will be profitable for a farmer.

“We want to build an easy-to-use online tool, like TurboTax, where farmers can answer inputs and expense questions and the tool performs an assessment and offers financial guidance,” said Ariana Torres, an associate professor of agricultural economics and horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue, who is part of the team. “Not every farmer grows the same way. When you have multiple crops, it may be complicated to do these financial calculations, and it takes time small farmers don’t have. We hope this tool will clearly show the impact of one approach versus another.”

Improving profits helps keep small farms growing, and they are needed more than ever, Ingwell said.

“Food access is very important, and even in Indiana we have places where it is an issue,” she said. “These small and medium farms are providing much needed food in food insecure communities, and high tunnels help them to continue to produce almost all year long. We want to give them every advantage we can.”