Nova Scotia

N.S. company finds new use for unsellable produce

A Dartmouth, N.S., company is saving some unsellable fruits and veggies from the trash by transforming them into dried powders that can last years on the shelf.

'The practice was for it to end up in a landfill before we came along'

Outcast Foods has struck a deal with Sobeys to help cut the grocery giant's food waste by 50 per cent over the next five years. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Dartmouth, N.S., company is taking fruits and veggies that can't be sold in grocery stores and transforming them into powders that can last for years.

Outcast Foods struck a deal with Sobeys this month to reuse a portion of the food that ends up discarded at the grocery giant's distribution centre in Debert.

"It's pretty revolutionary in the grocery world," co-founder T.J. Galiardi told CBC's Information Morning. "We take it and we process it immediately by dehydrating it."

That process allows a shelf-life of up to three years.

The dehydrated produce is then turned into plant-based protein powders by Outcast Foods or sold to other companies to be used in everything from pet food to healthy snacks. 

The partnership will help Sobeys reach its goal of reducing its food waste by 50 per cent by 2025, the company said. Sobeys also works with Feed Nova Scotia to donate some of the food it can't sell.

"By nature, produce has a short shelf life and it is important that we work with partners to redirect unsellable but fit for consumption items out of our landfills," Vittoria Varalli, the company's vice-president of sustainability, said in an emailed statement.

Galiardi said grocery store food isn't sold to customers for all kinds of reasons.

Outcast Foods is turning produce into protein powders that Sobeys will sell. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"Sometimes if the truck is delayed, whether that's in a snowstorm or the trucker falls asleep a little too long at the truck stop, it shows up a little too close to it's 'best if used by' date," he said.

"So Sobeys doesn't want to incur the cost of shipping it out to all of their various stores so that food is deemed waste and typically the practice was for it to end up in a landfill before we came along."

Galiardi, a former NHL hockey player who co-founded Outcast Foods with his friend, said he never expected to get into the food waste business. 

Rising costs of food

Experts have warned that the global pandemic could mean food prices soar even higher. Last year, an annual report on Canadian food costs noted families could start paying about $500 more a year on meals. 

Access to affordable and healthy food is especially a problem in Nova Scotia, a province that has some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country.

Outcast Foods has also been working with local farmers to reuse produce that is edible but can't be sold, Galiardi said.

He said the top five fruit and vegetables in Nova Scotia last year produced about 53 million kilograms of food waste.

"That's everywhere from ugly produce as it's typically regarded — so Florida broccoli that's too big or too small for the food broker to buy because of our insane expectations of perfect produce — all the way to farms that traditionally sell to food service and that's taken such a hit with COVID-19," he said.

While Sobeys has committed to reducing food waste in its operations by 50 per cent over the next five years, Galiardi wants to go further.

"We'd love to process up to 80 per cent of it," he said.

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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