Pea starch helps Lamb Weston reduce supply chain snags, trim food waste

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Live Brief:

  • Lamb Weston is leaning on pea starches as an alternative batter ingredient to mitigate supply chain challenges while trimming food waste, according to the food supplier’s 2021 ESG report.
  • The company began sourcing pea starch, a byproduct of processed pea, from an unnamed supplier last year to replace traditional starches. In tests, pea starch delivered “a nearly identical match to our traditional batters” in performance and consumer acceptance, Lamb Weston said in the report.
  • “This alternative is now used in many of our batters and coatings, solving a business problem while also reducing food waste,” the report said. “Looking forward, we will continue exploring how to incorporate byproducts into our products.”

Live Insight:

Alternative ingredient usage has helped food and beverage companies maintain production levels in a time of frequent supply shocks. The global supply of wheat, which starch is often made of, has been tight due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and extreme weather.

Starch was among the inputs for which Lamb Weston executives have reported significant cost inflation for in the past three quarters, according to earnings calls. It was “particularly challenging” to obtain earlier this year, General Mills Group President of North America Retail Jon Nudi said on a March earnings call. This led the company to adjust product formulations — as many as 20 times in some cases — to keep shelves stocked.

Replacing traditional ingredients can also benefit sustainability goals. Lamb Weston’s supplier’s pea starch is Upcycled Certified, per its ESG report. Upcycled products create products out of food that otherwise would have been wasted and contributed to greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Upcycled Food Association. The US Department of Agriculture estimates 30% to 40% of the country’s food supply is wasted.

For a product to be Upcycled Certified by the association, it must have 10% or more upcycled ingredients by weight or meet a threshold for tonnage diverted by sales tier.

“We are able to help eliminate food waste by using this starch as a value-added ingredient,” Lamb Weston President and CEO Tom Werner said in the report.

How much pea starch Lamb Weston is using versus traditional starches and how much food waste it has avoided through the alternative is unclear. The company did not respond to a request for comment. However, cutting supply chain food waste is a high priority for Lamb Weston. Its 2030 goals include reducing food waste from the production process by 50%, versus a 2020 baseline.

Lamb Weston has used other upcycling methods to further reduce its food waste. The company uses potato pieces too short to be fries in other items like hash brown patties. Other potato byproducts are “refined into a specialized starch” for coatings and batters, the ESG report says.

Lamb Weston isn’t alone in the upcycling movement — food and beverages containing upcycled ingredients have seen a surge in launches as companies look to address consumers’ concerns about food waste. Del Monte Foods, for example, announced in April that two more of its products have been Upcycled Certified. It’s redirecting roughly 130,000 pounds of pineapple juice annually to make the two products, Del Monte Gut Love and Boost Me Fruit Infusions.

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