Regrained takes spent grains used in beer brewing to make snack bars. (Marc Atkinson/Jesse Rogala)
A San Francisco-based company that makes granola bars out of grains leftover from the beer-making process has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Barnraiser. This platform provides the opportunity for sustainable food businesses to raise money to help them grow to the next level.
ReGrained, which has been selling its snack bars at outlets like Rainbow Grocery and at the Treasure Island Flea, is hoping to enhance the product's recipe, improve packaging and increase production volume with this next round of funding.
“We have all these things we want to do to our product before we put the pedal to the medal and get regional distribution,” said Dan Kurzrock, ReGrained’s “executive grain officer,” as well as cofounder of the company with his business partner Jordan Schwartz.
Kurzrock and Schwartz, who both hail from the Peninsula, have known each other since childhood and attended UCLA together. By then, Schwartz had developed an avid interested in all things food-related, and Kurzrock had become a serious homebrewer, brewing five gallons of beer about every other week.
Like any homebrewer learns, that kind of habit produces an enormous amount of waste. Kurzrock was generating 15 to 20 pounds of spent grains with every five gallons of beer he made.
Coming from a household where food was never wasted, he was suddenly faced with a big problem: what to do with such large quantities of spent grains.
“I was living in a fraternity house where I didn’t have a yard or compost service,” he said. “It smelled great, so I tried it, and it tasted kind of like oatmeal,” which led him to wonder if there was anything edible that could be made from it.
In online forums for homebrewers, he learned that it was commonly used to bake bread.
“I had never made bread before, but I started by making 20 loaves to see if I could sell it to people to buy the next round of ingredients for my next batch of homebrew. People were interested without even trying it. They loved that it came from the beer-making process and the story of it, which got me thinking about the bigger opportunity here,” said Kurzrock.
Ever the entrepreneur, Kurzrock realized that bread has a short shelf-life. He wondered what other products could be created with the spent grains, and that’s when he came up with the idea to make snack bars.
Since they first launched in 2012, they have produced two types of bars: honey almond IPA and chocolate coffee stout. Eventually, they’d like to branch out to produce other foods as well.
“We make a very insignificant dent,” he said. “We take a quarter of a brewery’s waste from one day of production every two weeks or so. They work with us because they like what we’re doing and want to see us grow, but it doesn’t mean we’re diverting all of the grain.”
Many breweries that are in more rural areas have relationships with nearby farms, where they give their spent grains to farmers, who feed it to their animals. The farmers may then provide the brewery’s restaurant with produce or meat in return.
“It’s that kind of thinking that inspires us. But in the ecosystem of breweries, there are now a really concentrated number of them opening up in urban areas,” said Kurzrock. “If you’re a farmer, why would you come into the city, when you have breweries five miles from your property?”
If the funding campaign succeeds -- it ends December 10 -- the team wants to improve the packaging as well as the recipe as the bars are currently a bit too crumbly. Automating the system would also speed up the production process considerably, allowing them to make more bars at a time.
Most of the ingredients in the bars are organic and Kurzrock pointed out that the grain itself is made up of both protein and dietary fiber. “This is a really big opportunity to have a sustainable plant-based source of nutrition,” though Kurzrock pointed out the taste is the most important thing to determine whether they will win over consumers or not.
I was able to taste the current recipe and could see why they want to improve the crumbliness factor. (It should be noted that despite the company’s “Eat Beer” slogan, there is no actual alcohol in the bars). While at first they tasted a bit dry, I found them to be comparable to other snack bars on the market. The Honey Almond IPA bar had strong cinnamon notes, while the Chocolate Coffee Stout Bar could be a excellent afternoon pick-me-up.
Although the company hopes to offer other products in addition to snack bars down the road, Kurzrock said the campaign is also just as much about raising broader awareness about their brand.
With the company’s motto of “Brew Good, Bake Good, Do Good,” Kurzrock said they’d like to be able to contribute in more meaningful ways in the future.
“We’re doing good in the form of taking some waste and turning it into a healthy sustainable food," he said. "But as we grow, we’d like to be a player in our community, working with urban farmers, and having more of a social mission beyond our core mission of reimagining beer waste as a resource.”