21 Aug Spotlight on: Unusually Good
In support of the North Okanagan Food Recovery Network, this spotlight shines a light on local businesses that are finding innovative ways to upcycle surplus food from the Okanagan – turning food that would have previously been discarded into a whole new product, and creating new value in the process.
What is Unusually Good’s mission?
Every year, 300 million pounds of apples go to waste in Canada simply because they don’t suit appearance standards. Even worse, farmers often have to pay for the disposal of these wasted apples while at the same time, 5.8 million Canadians face food insecurity.
Our mission is to rescue these apples! We turn them into nutritious apple chips which we donate to schools, food banks, and developing countries. To fund this initiative, we created high-quality apple juice, hard apple cider, and apple pomace candles! Every dollar raised from juice sales increases our apple chip donations and the positive impact made from these beautiful, imperfect apples!
What is your process for upcycling surplus food?
We upcycle fruit in multiple ways! By working with local businesses, we have been able to create shelf-stable products that generate revenues to support our apple chip donation program. Unusually Good’s product portfolio includes the following:
- Apple Chips
- Apple Juice
- Cherry Juice
- Apple Pomace Candles
- Hard Cider
Where are you sourcing the ingredients you are upcycling?
The Okanagan is home to thousands of orchards and unfortunately, a large amount of fruit is wasted every year. We source our fruit from local farmers throughout the Okanagan Valley who otherwise have to pay for their disposal.
What inspired the founding of Unsusally Good?
Unusually Good Food Co., was inspired by an Enactus Okanagan College (EnactusOC) student who was driving home from school one day and noticed a large amount of apples were left to rot on the grounds of local orchards. After chatting with a farmer, she knew something had to be done. Unusually Good Food Co. was founded in 2018 as an EnactusOC project to repurpose these perfectly good apples into something delicious!
What are some of the benefits of your products?
Our apple juice is made 100% out of one ingredient, apples! By purchasing our products, customers are supporting their local communities through the production and distribution of apple chips to local schools and food banks, and eliminating perfectly good fruit from going to waste. Additionally, each one of our products is made with the help of local businesses including Okanagan Beverage Co., and The North Okanagan Valley Gleaners. By supporting UGFC, you are supporting the environment, local businesses, and most importantly children facing food insecurity.
How much food have you rescued to date?
Unusually Good has rescued 160,350 lbs of apples from going to waste since its inception in 2018.
What can you share about the environmental, social and/or economic impact of your work to date?
We have saved 60 million liters of water that these apples would have used throughout their lifecycle, diverted 481,000 lbs of CO2 emissions, and impacted over 30 communities with apple chips donations.
What has your experience working with rescued food been like?
Our experience rescuing food has been an eye-opening one. Before joining this project we had no idea how much ‘unusually good’ food was going to waste in Canada alone. We have gotten to personally know the farmers that grow the produce and have been out in the orchard picking the apples. These apples are beautiful, the only reason they go to waste is only because of their size. Some years they are too big and some years too small, depending on the growing season. It has been a very humbling experience to see the impact UGFC has made thus far.
What do you think makes Unusually Good unique?
Unusually Good is unique in that we are a fully student-run social enterprise. Not only are we a viable enterprise working towards making a difference environmentally and socially, but we are also educating post-secondary students who are making important decisions about their lives on what social entrepreneurship is. As students ourselves, we have been able to see the difference that working on this project has had on our lives by making a direct impact within our own communities, and helping families who are facing food insecurity.
What would you consider Unusually Good’s biggest success to date?
Our biggest success is positively impacting students with over 135,000 servings of apple chips to date. We are fortunate to have partnered with Loblaw Companies Ltd this year to sell our apple juice in Your Independent Grocer locations across western Canada and continue expanding our mission. We even supplied store managers with apple chips to donate to a local organization that needed them the most in their community. As we grow, we are excited to continue expanding our apple chip donation program to reach even more students and communities.
What are some of the biggest challenges Unusually Good has faced?
One of the biggest challenges we experienced is the packaging of our apple chips. Originally we dropped off our apple chips to local schools in 50 litre reusable totes that the school staff could distribute to the children and then refill. During the pandemic, we decided to change the packaging to smaller quantities. Wanting to stay away from plastic we were very excited to find a compostable and heat-sealable packaging option.
Where can someone looking to buy your product find them?
We sell our apple juice in Your Independent Grocers across BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories. Our hard cider is currently sold in Kelowna at Peter’s YIG and Angry Otter Liquor Stores. You can find the full list of retailers on our website. Our candles are made to order, so if you are in the Okanagan and want to buy some, just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get them to you!
What has been the public response to your products?
Very positive. We’ve been fortunate to have amazing community support and we always love sharing our story and connecting with partners and consumers. One of our biggest supporters, Peter Boyd from Peter’s Your Independent Grocer in Kelowna has been incredibly informative and has become a wonderful mentor to the students that work with him.
Have you noticed a change in attitude towards upcycled food since Unusually Good first started?
Absolutely, we love chatting with customers about our product and now seeing the recognition in their faces when you mention upcycling food and immediately having them list off other companies that are doing the same is exciting. It feels like consumers are understanding how important upcycling food is for the environment and are completely onboard with changing their buying habits to support these initiatives.
What advice would you share with someone looking to start their own food upcycling venture?
Dive right in! Honestly, you will find there are people willing to support you at every turn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out to other companies that are currently upcycling food. You may find an unlikely partnership!
Prepared by Megan Czerpak, Head of Communications at FoodMesh