the potential is enormous

Brewer's spent grain is one of the most wasteful side streams in the food industry. Every year, breweries around the globe dispose of more than 40 million tonnes of brewer's spent grain.

For every 100 litres of beer, the brewery produces 20 kg of brewer's spent grain. This nutrient-rich mix of grain and water could cover 8% of the food deficit the world is estimated to face in the next eight years!

Today, brewers dispose of spent grain differently from country to country and from brewery to brewery. In Denmark, some brewer's spent grain goes to animal feed, and other countries make biogas from it, but in the vast majority of countries, these options do not exist. In that case, people discard spent grain as waste.

Agrain® has identified a method of processing that scales up or down depending on the brewery's needs. Apart from developing delicious everyday products for the Danish market, we are also working on long-term solutions that can help change global food systems so that the poorest can also benefit from this nutritious resource.


Upcycling can be called transformative recycling. It is about adding new value to something that would otherwise be considered waste, for example, by reinventing it as a new product or as part of a new product.

Upcycled Food Association definition:
Upcycling food uses ingredients that humans typically do not consume. The food is sourced and produced using verifiable supply chains and positively impacts the environment.

Short abstract:
Up-cycling is about converting resources we are not using into new products of higher value. When we upcycle food, it usually has a positive impact on the planet.

More info:
Upcycling is often confused with recycling. Understandably so, as these are concepts that have many common denominators. Recycling means reusing a product in its original form with the same function - e.g. recycled clothing. Upcycling, on the other hand, is about improving a product without degrading it and using additional resources to convert the raw material. This process requires a lot of ingenuity and creativity, and it's about seeing possibilities and thinking outside the box to create something new.

UPcycling = We add value to discarded materials over time and reuse them multiple times, if possible.
REcycling = We reuse the material in its original form.
DOWNcycling = We break down materials and make lower-value items, disposing only of the ones that cannot reuse.

Food waste accelerates CO2 emissions
Food waste is one of the biggest social, humanitarian and environmental problems around the globe. When we throw it away, we waste the energy and water used to grow, produce and package it. And if food is landfilled and rots, it produces methane - a greenhouse gas even more potent than CO2. By stopping food waste, we could reduce around 11% of greenhouse gas emissions from food systems. But as it stands, 88 million tonnes of food are thrown away across the EU yearly. At the same time, global population numbers are rising, and there are already areas where there is a lack of food.

Agrain combats food waste with upcycling and innovation
By 2050, the world's population can rise to 9.6 billion. To accommodate this growth, we need to increase food production by +70%. Otherwise, hunger will become an even bigger issue in the future. Because of the traditional linear "produce-use-waste" system, we waste more than a third of all edible supplies. To decrease the loss of resources, we need innovative circular processes. By upcycling the food industry's by-products, we can deliver solutions for hunger, resource depletion and climate change. Used materials do not sound ideal, but no need to compromise on taste and quality. Many untapped byproducts from the food industry are full of nutrition and can become delicious food items.

brewer's spent grain:
Globally, breweries produce +40 million tonnes of brewer's spent grain each year. Some of this is used for animal feed, some of this as biomass, but some is also wasted in landfills. There is global consensus that food resources, if possible, should go first to human food, second to animal feed, and third to energy. Only if the above is not feasible must it be thrown away. brewer's spent grain is an ideal resource to upcycle. It is abundant, it is nutritious and it tastes good. The versatility of the Spent Beer Grain Flour we produce at Agrain makes it a perfect ingredient to boost both taste and nutrition - and it's good for our planet too.

For every kilo of flour from Agrain, 2 m² of farmland can be saved. We don't use water in the production of our flour. CO2 emissions from our production are 0.59 CO2eq per kg of flour (unpackaged)* - far below the global average for wheat flour, which you can replace with Agrain Spent Beer Grain Flour.

* Calculations made by third party agency (RE-VIU).

Sources for more in-depth reading:

- Organic National Association - Organic Market Report(2020).
- Stenmarck, A., Jensen, C., Quested, T. & Moates, G. Estimates of European food waste levels, tech. Rep. (Mar 2016). doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.4658.4721.
- European Commission. Preventing food waste, promoting Circular Economy: Commission ad-opts common methodology to measure food waste across the EU.

4 SDGs are central to Agrain®'s business, mission and vision


2. Stop Hunger
When we first heard about spent grains and learned about the nutrition hidden in these mashed grains, it was clear that we had to act on that knowledge. More than 800 million people are supposedly chronically malnourished. But in their local areas, there is beer production. Why not find a way to use these grains for food in those parts of the world? That question formed the basis of the company's vision.
In 2020, together with the University of Copenhagen and The Footprint Firm, we carried out a project in Northern Kenya, testing our technology and process on spent grains from one of the East African Breweries. The project was very successful, and we are now working on formulating a business plan based on this project.


12. Sustainable consumption and production
We base up-cycling side streams from breweries into new food products on responsibility. Up-cycling is a way of ensuring that we use resources optimally. At the same time, in the Western world, we can help prevent the unnecessary use of land for agriculture by offering a flour substitute that does not require the cultivation of new farmland. In Denmark, it takes 1m² of land to produce 500 g of wheat flour, whereas we do not need any land to manufacture 500 g of Spent Beer Grain Flour.


13. Climate
For us, it's about taking care of our planet by cutting carbon emissions and creating the basis for good biodiversity. We are continuously measuring and developing our CO2 emissions and we have had Life Cycle Assessments (LCA)* done with a footprint of 0.59 CO₂ eq per kg Spent Beer Grain Flour(unpackaged). This means that we are well below both the Danish and international average. But we don't stop there. Our ambition is to become CO₂ neutral.
By making better use of existing resources, there is less need to use more land for agriculture. Our ambition is to upcycle 10% of the world's brewer's spent grain. This corresponds to a total land saving based on an international average of 34 million m² of land (= 5 billion football fields). From these 4 million tonnes brewer's spent grain, we could add 160 million kg of plant protein to human food.

* Calculations made by third party agency (RE-VIU).


17. Partnerships
The UN SDGs call for partnerships, and in our work it is hugely important to share our knowledge and resources with universities, researchers, breweries, brewmasters, chefs, bakers, food producers, retailers, consumers and many more. In this way, we can achieve our goal of transforming the world's food system into a circular, sustainable and future-proof system.