Daniel Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz are turning the residual grain from beer making – traditionally used for cattle feed in rural areas – into food for urban living. Their start-up, ReGrained, began when they were students in San Francisco.
“Jordan Schwartz and I started brewing our own beer at 19 because you need to be 21 to buy alcohol in the US,” Daniel Kurzrock says. “When I realized we were producing grain as a by-product I thought: Could this be transformed into food?” As city dwellers, Kurzrock and Schwartz had no compost or animals to feed it to. They were soon making bread from this ‘waste grain’ and selling loaves to friends to help fund their hobby. ‘Recreational entrepreneurship,’ Kurzrock calls it.
Kurzrock had been raised in a family of recyclers, and it prompted him to ask questions about the industry. “At that time craft beer was really taking off in the States. Urban breweries were springing up everywhere and we wondered what they were doing with all that grain. In rural areas it was sold as animal feed, but we discovered that urban breweries were dumping it because of the problems involved in re-purposing.”
ReGrained’s co-founders: Jordan Schwartz and Dan Kurzrock
Turning a ‘waste product’ into food
One of the challenges was the instability of the grain. “When it leaves the brewery, it’s hot, wet and spoils quickly,” Kurzrock explains. “It also takes a lot of energy to dry.” There wasn‘t any off-the-shelf technology available to upcycle the grain, that is, find a better use for it than compost or animal feed. So ReGrained partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture, and patented a process and a technology to turn the by-product into flour for food.
From there, Schwartz and Kurzrock set out to build a brand for this ‘heroic supergrain’. They have just launched a line of snack bars (“the feedback's fantastic”) and are almost ready to market a savory snack as well as work with other food producers who could use their beer by-product as an ingredient.
“We want to make this supergrain a staple foodstuff all over the world”- Daniel Kurzrock, ReGrained
Matchmaking start-ups and food companies
“But there is only so much start-ups can do on their own,” Kurzrock says. “That’s why we entered Rabobank‘s FoodBytes! pitch competition. As well as meeting advisors, investors and other entrepreneurs, we ended up being finalists at the Boulder Colorado event. Since then, we’ve built up a relationship with the bank in San Francisco and taken part in their TERRA program, which ‘matchmakes’ start-ups and big food companies to help scale solutions faster.”
Kurzrock believes there’s an urgency to creating a better future and that corporates can put the wind behind the sails of his start-up. “We dream of ReGrained becoming a global platform for ‘edible upcycling’, reducing waste and feeding people at the same time. There are breweries and bakeries all over the world and we hope to bridge the two. We want to make this supergrain a staple foodstuff. It could work all over the world!”
Watch ReGrained in action
This interview is part of the Growing Ideas series, in which we take a look at the future of agrifood and offer a platform to innovative companies in the sector.