Towards upcycled food

What if you could drink your beer and eat it too?

Think of all the massive amounts of beer that’s consumed in the world. And now think of the humongous piles of the largest side stream of the beer brewing process called brewer’s spent grain (BSG) or draff, making up to 85% of the total byproduct. As per now, this largely solid residue is not wasted but mostly munched as feed by livestock. However, a good question is: would it make sense to upcycle this useful raw material rich in nutrients as delicious plant-based products for humans?  

An obvious answer is yes, so the next question is how to do it. This is what team Mäsli is working on in Viikki Food Design Factory’s Germinator programme. Mäsli’s solution for upcycling BSG is based on fermentation technologies, producing a tasty fibre- and protein-rich grain-based food raw-material. Truly healthy both for people and the planet! The team consisting of Pauliina Piuhola (CEO to-be) and Lari Pihlajärvi (CTO to-be) has started their portfolio development with a granola but aim at a wide variety of products.  

What makes Mäsli’s solution particularly interesting is its ability to solve a systemic problem. By upcycling BSG they serve both consumers and breweries. Consumers are looking for new nutritious plant-based alternatives. Simultaneously, breweries will need new outlets for their BSG side stream because animal-based protein consumption is likely to slowly decrease and as other upcycled livestock feeds are emerging onto the market. 

Putting learnings straight into practise

Team Mäsli’s steep learning curve during the Germinator so far has been impressive. Pauliina and Lari joined the programme as a fresh team and are now putting their Germinator learnings straight into practice.   

- The Germinator programme has exceeded our expectations already! The best so far has been the sparring from the coaches and other teams. We also look forward to starting experimentation in the laboratories of Viikki! says Pauliina Piuhola, Co-Founder and CEO-to-be of Mäsli 

Indeed, both the Germinator crew and peer Germinator teams have had the pleasure of tasting Mäsli’s first prototype granola. Further prototyping is facilitated by the Viikki Food Design Factory in the process lab of the Food and Nutrition department of the faculty of agriculture and forestry.   

Learning together

The current food system is full of vicious circles. However, breaking them down and assembling the right pieces together again in novel ways are innovation opportunities for the quick-learning and hard-working - the likes of team Mäsli. By now the Germinator teams know that among the ingredients needed for grasping the business opportunities in transforming the food system include willpower and deep food sector understanding. Atria is one of VFDF Germinator’s sponsor-mentors who can fill in them on a thing or two about both topics. A third capability required is a skill to cultivate good partnerships fostering joint learning. 

- The Germinator program has offered for us an interesting way to see and meet new start-ups and hear their solutions for the future’s sustainable food system. We are waiting for to have the mentoring discussions with all the teams in January, says Merja Leino Executive Vice President, Sustainability at Atria Group.

Evidently, food system transforming solutions cannot be developed and produced by single players anymore. Instead, they are generated in ecosystems of compatible big and small actors joining forces in the form of competences, skills, resources, and through a truly systemic approach. Viikki Food Design Factory is thrilled to play the part of a catalyst in the needed transformation through its Germinator programme.

The Germinator teams pitched their solutions for an on-site and online audience of several hundreds and an expert jury at the FoodTech section of the Y Science Slush side event  on December 1, 2021. Mäsli was selected as the winner of the pitching competition and took home the 5000 EUR price. You can watch Pauliina’s immediate comments on the win at Viikki Food Design Factory’s tweet