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Pulp and circumstance: Montreal company turns juice pulp into cookies

“I am a food waste reduction expert,” says Still Good’s Jonathan Rodrigue. “I ask what is it? How is it? What can we do with it? How can we reduce it?”
“I am a food waste reduction expert,” says Still Good’s Jonathan Rodrigue. “I ask what is it? How is it? What can we do with it? How can we reduce it?” - Dave Sidaway/Postmedia

Jonathan Rodrigue isn’t into trends but he is into reducing the 2.2-million tonnes of edible food wasted in Canada annually. He creates cookies and bars that reduce waste without sacrificing taste.

Rodrigue is the co-founder of Still Good, a company launched in 2018 that is based in Old Montreal. Still Good collects discarded juice pulp and grains and turns both into edible goods.

Rodrique is also the former business development director of Moisson Montreal, Canada’s largest food bank, where he saw first-hand the amount of food some grocery stores wasted (around 2 tonnes per month).

While working at Moisson, Rodrigue began the Supermarket Recovery Program (which is now run by the province) to recover food waste from some of the bigger supermarkets across the island of Montreal. This program now spans more than 300 supermarkets throughout the province with the goal of feeding more than 400,000 families per month.

You could say he knows a thing or two about reducing food waste.

“I am a food waste reduction expert. I ask what is it? How is it? What can we do with it? How can we reduce it?”

It’s not only a line of questioning he wants all companies to think about, but it’s also his approach to procuring ingredients for Still Good’s products.

“I wanted to find a way to upcycle what is not yet upcycled,” he says.

By “upcycling,” he’s talking about things like juice pulp. Juice companies create fresh-pressed juices and discard the pulp (which holds most of the nutrients). Some more conscientious companies turn that pulp into compost, but most of it is thrown away. Still Good recovers the pulp from distributors (frozen and placed in food-safe bins) and turns it into cookies, bars, and other baked goods. The company also recovers spent grain from local breweries.

Once breweries extract the mash, most throw away the grain. Rodrigue and his crew often make a mad dash to local brewpubs to recover those grains.

“The breweries call us when a batch is done, and we go there with our food-grade containers and scoop up the spent grains,” he said.

Rodrigue is always searching for other food waste that can be upcycled. By looking beyond the already-manufactured items food banks usually collect, such as bread, packaged goods, and other previously transformed items, Still Good can use items that are often thrown away.

But selling food made from edible waste isn’t easy. Rodrigue is facing the challenge of changing the visceral reaction most people have toward the thought of eating discarded ingredients.

“We’re creating a new category for retailers. There aren’t many upcycled products in grocery stores right now, so people are adjusting to this concept. People are open to it, but it’s fairly new. Just like when people first started to discover organic or vegan products. We have to gain the same sort of recognition,” he said.

He’s also on a larger mission than cashing in on the current sustainable food trend. With an extensive background in food waste reduction, Rodrigue wants to make his message clear: Still Good can be a model for other companies, and food waste reduction is possible at any level.

“We didn’t start Still Good just because we wanted to start a trendy company. It’s not a passing trend; it’s steps toward change,” he said. “I want people to look at this company and think, ‘We can reduce food waste, it can be done in a way that is cost-effective and sustainable, and it is a possibility.’”

By Harriette Halepis

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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