Approximately 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States each year, according to Feeding America. That’s 130 billion meals, enough food to feed 118 million people for a year — way more than enough to feed each of the 38 million Americans facing hunger — and more than $408 billion in food waste.
But the majority of that waste isn’t coming from supermarkets tossing rotten produce, or restaurants getting rid of out-of-date fish. About 39% of that waste comes from our homes — in other words, that’s food that we’re throwing out every week or every month simply because we don’t eat it. And the true cost of that waste goes far beyond food. Consider the gas wasted transporting all that food, and the energy spent ranching and farming it.
This troubling problem was something Kaitlin Mogentale, who majored in Environmental Studies, decided to do something about, other than just watching her own consumption — she started a business.
How She Did It
As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and Kaitlin took those words to heart when she learned just how much plant material was being wasted when she saw friend juice a carrot. All that pulp. All that fiber. Mogentale began to think bigger — what were all the local juice companies doing with their leftover fiber? She learned that it was expensive for the juicers to get composting services to haul the remains away, so most of it was just getting trashed.
But she held out hope that something else could be done with those fibrous products — something better could be created. Maybe even something that could be profitable. After testing countless “upcycled” food products that used the pulpy remnants of juicing, Mogentale landed on chips — and Southern California-based Pulp Pantry was born. The company now offers four flavors of chips made from leftover juiced greens, including spinach, kale and celery – and occasionally some cucumber and Romaine lettuce. Chip flavors include salt, salt & vinegar, jalapeno lime and barbecue.
Although her chips are incredibly popular today, her journey to profitability wasn’t an easy one. Because the U.S. food system doesn’t use a lot of fresh ingredients, Mogentale says she “really struggled to find manufacturing partners that would partner with us. The only real category opportunity, that was kind of a low-hanging fruit for us, was the chips and salty snacks. There’s a lot of innovation in that area and consumers are willing to try new things and test out new brands. We felt like it was a good opportunity for us to get our feet wet in the industry, and introduce a new concept.”
After proving her concept, Mogentale needed more money to expand her business and get her products out to a broader market. She went on the popular TV show Shark Tank, where she requested $500,000 in exchange for 10% equity in the business. In May of 2022, she accepted a deal with Mark Cuban, who offered $500,000 for a 17% stake. You can catch her appearance here, and if you’re interested in trying out Pulp Pantry’s products, you can snag some on Amazon. We’ll keep you updated on Mogentale’s progress as she grows her business, and brings healthy snacks to the masses.
Your Turn To Prevent Waste & Save Money
Pulp Pantry’s products depend on fiber waste from juicing, but Mogentale knows that others are eager to cut down on their food waste at home. And it can be done — even if you don’t have a means of turning kale fiber into your favorite salty snack. Here are some of her best tips:
- Acknowledge that we’re all over-ambitious when it comes to food — we buy too much. Try to cut back on what you put in your cart at the grocery store and bring home with you.
- When shopping, have a plan for what you purchase: Know what meals you’re buying for, and be conscious of how long the food you purchase will likely stay fresh.
- Use all parts of your produce, including peels, stems, flowers, etc. (more on that below)
- Learn to pickle vegetables to extend their shelf life
- Befriend your freezer. A simple Google search will tell you which items will freeze well, and which won’t. For example, bread freezes great, as do pasta, soups, or chilis. Fruit, and things like yogurt and sour cream, not so much.
“A lot of people don’t always understand that they can utilize the different peels of different fruits and vegetables,” Mogentale said. “I know people always like to shave down their carrots and pull their broccoli stems, so obviously, those scraps go to waste. You can get really creative with some of those peels, scraps and stems and there are a lot of great recipes out there. We have a great recipe on our blog using broccoli stems to make a pasta dish. Consumers need to build up their knowledge base and get creative in the kitchen. I freeze all my cauliflower stems and leaves and I’ll use them instead of a banana in smoothies to give them a creamy texture.”
Mogentale said that instead of a typical cabbage sauerkraut, she might use leafy greens and she uses beet greens to make kimchi. Pickled cucumbers are for delis — she pickles stems from broccoli and cauliflower. “Think outside the box,” she says.
Virtually everything in the produce aisle is edible, she says. “I made a smoothie this morning and I put in the full mango, obviously not the pit, but I put in the skins and it just gives an extra boost of fiber. Just remember to buy organic when you’re eating the outer peels.”
More from HerMoney:
- The 10 Healthiest And Most Affordable Food Delivery Companies
- 9 Things Most of Us Don’t Do at the Grocery Store But Could Save Us $100 or More
- How to Cut Food Waste and Save Money in the Process
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