I majored in food science decades ago but my entire career has been in product development. And there’s nothing more exciting than working on a new product and seeing it on the shelf or seeing someone pick it up in the store. You almost want to say to them, oh, that's my product! There's a lot of pride in it.
When I first joined Acme three years ago, I was challenged with how we utilize our byproducts, especially for cold smoked salmon. We trim the products and get rid of what we call the dark meat. So there's waste that right now goes to the landfills and we pay to get rid of it, at about 20 to 25 cents a pound. That's one waste stream. The other is the salmon skin and we pretty much throw a majority of that out. We have some ingredient and pet suppliers that can use those streams, but they are largely underutilized.
I think what's really cool is that there's been an interest throughout the food industry over the last few years in developing new products from what they call “upcycled foods,” a good example of that being bruised fruit that typically would be thrown out. We've seen in the market recently that there's companies that have taken salmon skins and made them into salmon snacks, and they're really touting the fact that they're taking advantage of ingredients that often end up in landfills, incinerators or animal feed. And what's exciting is that consumers are seeing upcycled food more and more as an advantage, as opposed to feeling like they’re buying something that should be going into the garbage. They see it as, ‘Wow, this is better for the environment.’
For Acme, there are lots of opportunities for us to take our recycled ingredients, like our salmon trim, and turn it into something totally new. Right now we sell a lot of the trimmings, which are the off-cuts in small pieces and it’s actually great salmon. We'll sell them to our large supermarket customers as is but we could possibly utilize the gray trim and sell it as an ingredient for recipes. When I first started looking into how to deal with our byproducts, I thought it'd be really cool if we could extract the omega-3 fatty acids from the fish and sell them to pharmaceutical companies as a natural source of omegas. And we even worked with a flavor company that told us they could take our smoked byproducts and put it through a heat process and extract the flavors and sell it as a flavor oil. This is all pie in the sky for the future, but the sky's the limit for the different things you could do with it all.
We have some really exciting product development in the pipeline for 2023 and beyond where we can use some of these upcycled ingredients, keeping our waste out of the landfill and giving it new life. There’s a hundred possibilities, which is why I love R&D. There’s always something new. We’ll always be evolving as we continue to look for new approaches. Who knows what packaging or dealing with waste will look like in 20 years, it may be totally different. But because we're in R&D and we're doing research, we’re always keeping abreast of what's new and how we can do a better job at delivering sustainable products for the environment.