Case Study

Susgrainable Health Foods Inc. Vancouver, Canada

SME Name
Susgrainable Health Foods Inc.
SME Size
Small
Sector
Consumer Goods
Industry
Food & Beverage
Contact
Marc Wandler
hello@susgrainable.ca
Developed by Kyra Chisholm

Lesson

It is evident that sustainability is deeply embedded in the company values. For example, they are unwilling to compromise on the location of their facilities because there is are high emissions from transporting a by-product that is ~70% water long distances. The co-location of micro factories in urban environments also supports keeping jobs centrally located and connected to the local community. So while this decision means that industrial space located in Vancouver is more expensive, and therefore will take more time to acquire as they grow, it is a strategy that is important to the founders. Susgrainable deeply embeds sustainability and well-being into their business model with almost every decision being put through a lens of how they can be doing better.

Though they are a young company, Susgrainable is sharing their knowledge and already looked at as experts in this emerging space. They have been called on by fellow entrepreneurs and organization for their expertise on putting circular economy into practice. They have also run workshops at Universities and in local high schools to teach about the circular economy and how their business model transforms the way we look at food waste.

Background

Susgrainable Health Foods Inc. is a start-up in Vancouver that transforms spent grain from craft breweries into sustainable flour and baked goods. The flour and baked goods from spent grain is a high fibre, high protein and low sugar, a healthier alternative to traditional flours.

Their mission is to provide a creative solution to food waste and high sugar consumption in our diets. Susgrainable has values for people, the planet and their community that influence their decisions.

With a passion for impact, they take every opportunity to educate their community. Through innovative school workshops, speaking events and their direct consumer education, they are sharing the principles of the circular economy and the alarming rates of food waste in Canada.

Sustainability Story

How does a company start turning beer waste into baked goods, you ask? When the founders of Susgrainable learned about the high-value spent grain waste that is a by-product of making craft beer, they sought out to find a solution. This began as a University project and continued on to become an innovative business model, serving up healthier, more sustainable baked goods local to Vancouver. They evaluated opportunities from using it as an energy source to making coasters, but ultimately, high quality grain that was grown for food could be kept in the food system to maintain its highest utility.

Spent grain is high in fibre, high protein and low sugar. So not only is keeping this from going to waste good for the planet, but its also better for our diets. Marc, one of the founders comes from a health background, so he is passionate about creating healthier products that help people eat more fibre and less sugar. When products go unsold, Susgrainable looks for opportunity to donate them and make sure to help fight food insecurity locally.

Susgrainable Health Foods Inc. Practices

A circular economy operationCo2 emissions reductions by geographic planning Consumer educationCommunity wellbeing
Dehydrating spent grain for flour production.Co-location of micro factories in urban environments. (Reduced transportation from breweries) Education in schools and fundraising programBaked goods using Susgrainable flour
Sales direct through website, zero waste retailers, farmers markets and cafesConsumer education of circular practicesDonate leftover baked goods
Evaluating new waste streams for alternative flour production

Pathway Map

Pathway maps represent the sequence businesses followed to implement successful sustainability practices and identify emerging ones within firms. The pathways also reveal the diversity of actors that begin to form sustainability enabling ecosystems for businesses to adopt, deploy or test sustainability practices.

Enabling Factors for Practices

Internal ElementsExternal Elements
Co-founders with a breadth of experience and knowledge that enables agility and start-up survivalFinancing from credit union that backs business model and vision
Hiring employees and interns with shared values increases passion and commitment to company missionGrant opportunities that build financial capacity for continued growth and experimentation
Internships enable increased capacity from local university talent with subsidized wage support that meets constrained start-up budgetConnection of network to SME's that support one another and form partnerships to build brand awareness
Local community support and wider sustainability culture in the Greater Vancouver Area enable stronger uptake of the business model

Arresting Factors for Practices

InternalExternal
Employees/labour not easy to find (hiring)High taxes and lack of incentives for sustainability
Access to data and information about advancing new practicesGovernment health regulations limits time to dry spent grain to within 8 hours of brewing
Technical knowledge (contracted out for cost savings)COVID-19: Limited farmers market opportunities; No product sampling in groceries or at markets (consumer demonstration and education); Zero waste retailing limitations - packaging required
Financial (start-up costs)Pricing - customers want local, but don't want to pay more - living wage in Vancouver increases cost of production
Lack of industrial space of their own - limited production capacityPrice of real estate / rent in metro Vancouver - desire to remain a model with micro production in urban environment (the cost of doing the right thing)
Early innovator / pioneer - first in the space creating a new industry for upcycling 'food waste' - unforeseen challenges without similar experience to guide decisions
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