This article is part of a series on Disruptors to Watch in the Food Industry. You can read the full series, starting here
Dan Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz love beer and hate waste. Based on that, they now intend to shake up the world of grain-based ingredients by repurposing what breweries throw out.
As a student at UCLA, Kurzrock, an avid home-brewer, noticed two things about making his own beer. One was that it involves an incredible amount of waste, in the form of malted barley that has been soaked to extract its essence. The second was that this “waste” had a lot of potential.
Kurzrock and Schwartz, a college buddy, founded ReGrained, a business based on making the spent barley from several Bay Area craft breweries into grain-based products. The core of ReGrained is the process that the two founders developed and patented to remake grains recovered from breweries into a viable food ingredient.
What’s left is a millable grain with an average of 6g of dietary fiber and 3.5g of protein per cup. Kurzrock describes it as “pretty mild but with kind of a nutty, roasted flavor. That flavor can either be highlighted or pretty easily not highlighted in a recipe, depending on what it is.”
For now, those recipes are for snack bars, which Kurzrock and Schwartz settled on as appealing products that are not overly complicated to produce. ReGrained originally made the bars by hand in a leased commercial kitchen; now they’re produced by a Chicago-area contract manufacturer. The bars come in three flavors (coffee, honey cinnamon and blueberry sunflower), sold online and in high-end and specialty retail outlets, including Gelson’s Market and Sprouts. ReGrained plans to roll out a new product soon: snack chips in five SKUs.
The consumer products currently bring in the majority of ReGrained’s revenue, but Kurzrock sees them as a means to a long-term end: the widespread use and acceptance of spent barley, processed by ReGrained’s method, as a grain-based ingredient.
He calls ReGrained “an ingredient company with a consumer brand.” ReGrained is in product development cycles with various food companies, fashioning products for them to make using ReGrained flour.
“We’re trying to create a new category,” Kurzrock says. “Think of it as ‘Powered by ReGrained’ or ‘Powered by recycled super grain.’ Sort of like Intel Inside. Our whole business is designed to elevate this new ingredient and make it recognized for the super grain that it is, because it’s got more nutrition than virtually any other grain that’s out there.”
In Kurzrock’s view, instead of ReGrained flour being pushed into formulations, its uniqueness and versatility will pull product development along. “We’re very fortunate to be in a position where we have this ingredient that’s so versatile, that we’re not so much faced with the question of how can this be used, [but] how should it be used,” he says.
One of the biggest issues in formulations with ReGrained flour is how to maximize the value of its rich fiber content. “Can we take a product that was previously in a nutritional vacuum and get it to an ‘excellent source of fiber’ claim, while still being incredibly delicious?”
That’s why the retail side of the business is ultimately a tool to pique the interest of the food processing industry. It is augmented by promotions through one-day pop-up feasts in the Bay Area, featuring chicken and waffles or square Detroit-style pizza, all made with ReGrained flour.
Kurzrock likens ReGrained flour to whey, which dairy processors for a long time considered a waste product, fit at best to use as fertilizer. Now it’s a valued food ingredient. “That is a radically different paradigm, and that’s what we started our business to foster, for other overlooked and undervalued nutrients,” he says.
And he’s not worried about supply. "It’s important to understand there is about a pound of grain for every six-pack of beer,” he says. “So even a small brewery is generating millions of pounds of this food supply.”