With Susgrainable, Marc Wandler and Clinton Bishop are conquering some mighty societal issues: food wastage and diabetes. Their weapon? Delicious baked goods made of beer “waste”.
It took the friends, roommates, and business partners more than two years to figure out how, but they managed to come up with a way to quickly dehydrate malted barley that’s otherwise discarded during the craft-beer-making process. Beer uses sugars from barley, leaving fibre and protein behind. The pair transform that “spent” grain (the brewers’ term defining when they are done with the grain) into their signature “upcycled barley flour”.
The flour is high in plant-based protein and fibre and low in sugar. The two also argue that the product is good for the planet, with approximately 650 tonnes of spent grain produced by craft breweries nationwide every year otherwise being thrown away. Why waste it, when you can turn it into flour and make everything from vegan old-fashioned cookies and banana bread to rosemary focaccia and artisan sourdough?
Wandler and Bishop met nearly four years ago, when they were both working at Alberta Health Services. Wandler was an exercise physiologist, and many of his clients were diabetic.
“Most people are aware that diabetics are unable to regulate blood sugar, and while most people know they need to avoid sugar, another key but less communicated piece is that they need to increase their fibre intake,” Wandler tells the Straight. “Our flour is virtually absent of sugar and loaded with fibre.”
He first learned about beer waste through a school project and had questions for Bishop, whose family farms barley.
As talk progressed, the entrepreneurial idea behind Susgrainable was a “no-brainer”. The hard part was figuring out the logistics involved in making upcycled barley flour.
“First, we need to establish our brewery partners’ brewing schedules and coordinate it with our partners who assist with the contract drying,” Wandler explains. “We have an eight-hour window to dehydrate as much product as possible, so the clock starts ticking the minute we grab the wet spent grain. Once the grain is dry, it is shelf-stable, and we can mill as needed.”
To date, Susgrainable has worked with Faculty Brewing Co., R&B Brewing, the Parkside Brewery, Monkey 9 Brewing, and Dogwood Brewing, all in the Lower Mainland. That list is likely to get longer as the company grows.
Working out of Coho Commissary, the company has also launched its own online shop at www.susgrainable.com/. You'll find upcycled barley flour; mixes for cookies, waffles, and banana bread; baking starter kits; and its own line of breads and cookies, including its OG Original Cookie. With cranberry, coconut, and chocolate, the OG is "the cookie that started it all". The site lists retail partners, “who could definitely use support right now”, Wandler says. “Farmers’ markets are also great way to get the product during the summer season. There is the benefit of having all your questions answered there, too.”