The trend in home baking, which soared in popularity over the past two years, shows no sign of waning. Through baking, we re-connected to our past through childhood memories, the incredible aromas of baking, and re-living that ‘fresh from the oven’ first bite. Together, we shared online our sourdough fails and banana bread successes, colourful cake challenges, and all the while, smiling in front of gorgeously messy kitchens.
As large suppliers of traditional baking supplies, bowls and pans, and bread machines scrambled to keep up with demand, a Canadian entrepreneur named Shawn Leggett was already formulating how to disrupt how we bake.
Waste Not. Want More!
Based in Okotoks, Alberta, Shawn is taking upcycling to the next level! His company, GroundUp Eco-Ventures, uses otherwise wasted barley and coffee grounds from local businesses and transforms them into high-quality and nutrient-rich super-flours.
With a 20-year career in the oil and gas industry behind him, Shawn was looking for a way to give back to his community and the environment. GroundUp is a family-operated and Canadian-owned company that now creates value from upcycling waste from the coffee and craft brewery industries. With the help of his partner, Shawn opened the business in June 2021, and together they have already received a gold award in SIAL’s Innovation competition in April of this year.
Coming Full Circle
The company seeks to change people’s understanding of food waste based on the concept of circular economies. At GroundUp, coffee beans are for more than your morning brew, they make brownies better, and barley turns baked goods into nutritional food. In addition to producing a positive environmental impact, their selection of flours and essential oils comes with various health benefits for consumers.
Currently, Canadians use over 300,000 tonnes of coffee and over 250,000 tonnes of barley every year, with much of the leftover waste ending up in landfills and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. However, only around 25% of the value in barley has been used at the point in which it is deemed waste. Similarly, coffee grounds still have underutilized potential to create something new.
The leftover barley comes from local Alberta breweries like Big Beaver Brewing, Fahr Brewery, High River Brewing Company, and Calgary-based Cabin Brewing Company. The coffee grounds come from Blackbird Cold Brew Coffee in Aldersyde, and Leggett is currently working on bringing in more producers across the province and expanding to sell his flours in stores in BC.
The Nutritional Value in Waste
It is a bit strange to look at leftover coffee grounds and think of delicious gluten-free baked goods being created with them. However, as this innovative Okotoks start-up has proven, there is a lot of nutritional value in coffee grounds and spent grain. “People don’t normally look at coffee and think of nutritional value,” says Shawn. “But coffee essential oil is loaded with fatty acids, oleic acid, palmitic acid, as well as vitamin E, which additionally benefit both skin and hair.” After dehydration and oil extraction, grounds are processed into a coffee flour high in fibre, protein, and vitamin C, while gluten, sugar-free, and low in fat. The flour does not taste like coffee, making it suitable for salty and sweet recipes.
Further to the nutritional benefits of coffee flour, the beauty industry recognizes and utilizes caffeine for its anti-inflammatory properties in body scrubs and serums. GroundUp also offers a versatile Essential Coffee Oil that can be massaged over the face, neck, and body. With its light, fresh-brewed coffee scent, we find this oil irresistible!
Saving The Planet One Bag of Flour at a Time
For every 1,000 kilograms of spent coffee grounds, GroundUp saves roughly 340 cubic metres of methane gas, 25 times as damaging to the environment as CO2. At present, the dehydration process for barley can take up to 18 hours to complete, but there are plans to develop new technology to reduce processing time. Interestingly, the dehydration and oil extraction process uses modern technology, but the milling process is completed with an old-fashioned stone mill!
“It’s designed to keep the stones cool and the flour cool because then we don’t lose anything from heat as far as nutrition or anything like that,” said Leggett. “It makes a better flour.”
The coffee production part is entirely waste-free, with 100% of the coffee being utilized. With the barley, some leftover chaff is still being produced, but plans are underway to upcycle that as well.
It is no small feat to be able to build a business during a pandemic, but Shawn and his team are driven to keep innovating and expanding the GroundUp product line. So, tomorrow as you enjoy your cold brew or a frosty beer, think about those grounds and spent hops and how one man in Alberta is keeping them out of the organics bin, lowering CO2 emissions, and recycling them into incredible products that we can use. Click any photos in this story to shop GroundUp products on their website!
This is the first four-part series on the Alberta-based GroundUp EcoVentures founded and operated by Shawn Leggett. Next month, watch for a product spotlight on their range of plant-based offerings!
- Vancouver-based writer, Gio finds her passion in the areas of fashion, content creation and marketing. She strives to promote a clean, conscious, and active lifestyle through her work. As she gains experience in the areas of fashion and marketing, Gio seeks to foster relationships with brands that have strong values and offer high-quality products.