Adam Kaye is a co-founder of The Spare Food Co., a company committed to reducing food waste and building a more sustainable food system. With a passion for using unused ingredients and minimizing food waste, Adam and his team at The Spare Food Co. work to create delicious meals and snacks that are good for people and the planet. Through his work, Adam is leading a movement to create a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable food system, one that respects the resources we have and values the people who produce our food. DeliveryRank has the pleasure.
The germ of the idea of The Spare Food Co. came out of my unique experience as a chef, specifically working in a restaurant on a farm. It was my very close proximity to the growing and raising of our food that really clued me in to all that we generally don’t get access to as chefs - overlooked and underutilized ingredients that slip through the cracks of our food system.
This in turn led to my growing awareness of what is wasted in our food system and the myriad of environmental, social, nutritional and human impacts of this global issue. Joining forces with my brother and co-founder Jeremy, we realized that there was a very unique business opportunity around latent value in our food system - and more importantly, that business can be a force for good.
First and foremost, we are an ingredient driven company. We create products by first identifying ingredients that are currently wasted in our food system. Where others see waste, we see ingredients and opportunities to create products that are better for both people and the planet. That’s why we talk about wasted food, not food waste! Simply switching the order of those two words has massive implications.
In the case of Spare Tonic, the ingredient stream that we identified is whey from strained yogurt production. As a small startup, we weren’t working at the scale where we were able to approach one of the large names in the dairy industry. As such, we initially partnered with a small yogurt manufacturer who was nimble, forward-thinking and able to work with us to set up the supply chain logistics to sequester, save and transport the whey to our manufacturing facility.
Having worked with whey as a chef in a culinary setting, I was very familiar with it as an ingredient with massive potential. I was also aware of the staggering amounts of whey that are produced and discarded by the dairy industry in this country, an industry which, for the most part, sees whey not as co-product, but as a waste stream.
As Jeremy and I considered product development, I kept coming back to this powerhouse ingredient and the more I worked with it and explored various applications, I realized we were onto something incredible. As a chef first and a product developer second, keeping things simple and natural was a non-negotiable. We only use real food ingredients - nothing artificial or highly processed. It’s this approach that I truly believe resonates with the public. Four ingredients - that’s all. And you can pronounce each one of them!
When it comes to flavor development, I really just rely on my palate and an understanding of flavor combinations that work well together, and work well with whey which has a flavor of its own. It’s also about what I’d want to drink. If I don’t like it, we’re not going to make it! And then there’s the fine tuning of acidity, sweetness, mouthfeel etc…. That’s the unique alchemy that makes Spare Tonic such a vibrant and delicious drink!
I like to say that Spare Tonic is the story of The Spare Food Co. in a 12 oz can! Yes, we can be very proud of the fact that we’ve diverted well over 50 tons of whey from being discarded since we started producing Spare Tonic in 2021. And yes, it’s incredibly gratifying to see how Spare Tonic is resonating with consumers who recognize it as a truly unique, innovative and delicious product.
But more than that, it is knowing that Spare Tonic, as our first product, is building an awareness of what delicious and nutritious ingredients are being overlooked in our food system. It’s why we called our company The Spare Food Co., not The Food Waste Co.! The work that we, and other upcycled food companies, are doing, is demonstrating that there is another way of thinking about food production - one that is circular and regenerative and not linear and extractive. This is no easy feat. It really requires a wholesale rethinking of our food system and how we value our resources.
The blossoming of the nascent upcycled food industry as a whole, and the success of small startups like Spare Food, gives me hope, especially when you see the big food brands start to pay attention. People are becoming increasingly aware of the connection between food production and climate change - it’s hard not to in 2023! With that comes an awareness that the food choices we make have massive implications, and in a world where things too often feel like they are spinning out of control, we have agency when it comes to where we choose to spend our dollars. That is very powerful.
If you would like to find out more about The Spare Food Co., visit https://sparefood.com/