Dihan Chandra is a true circular economy innovator. His company, Spent Goods, works with small-to-medium businesses to re-imagine food waste in order to reduce their expenses and generate new revenue. The first product they developed was Beer Bread, a delicious artisan sourdough bread made with spent grains from Henderson’s Brewery.
Spent Goods was featured in a recent list of Toronto startups taking a bite out of food waste. We connected with Dihan to chat more about his work, and how it has been impacted by his involvement with CSI’s Climate Ventures incubator.
(Spent Goods are part of an exciting upcoming event at CSI Annex, and you can be part of it too! Come help select finalists and watch them pitch for $20,000 in cash awards at our climate-focused pitch night!)
What do you think are some of the misconceptions about food waste?
A fact that I wasn’t aware of before I got into this business was that Food waste is the 3rd most significant solution according to Project Drawdown, which is a list of 100 solutions if all executed, can actually reverse climate change. I love that this project gives us a roadmap and inspires hope – So if we collectively deal with food waste, it would have a significant impact and its something in our respective control.
What I love about our solution is that we’re taking what others consider as food waste and using it to feed people. This will help to address local food insecurity concerns (e.g., food bank use is on the increase by 13% according to the Daily Bread Food bank) with local food by-products that typically end up in landfill.
Most people I believe feel food waste is at residential & restaurants level but a recent study came out pointing the finger at industrial food waste as the bigger culprit. I feel regardless, at the end of the day, both the consumers and businesses need to reduce their food waste footprints and they can be incentivized financially – e.g., a food waste ban in landfill would force people to find alternate ways to deal with their respective food waste with producing little / zero waste being the first step.
What is your biggest hope for Spent Goods? What does the world look like if all those hopes come true?
For Spent Goods brand to be associated an example of a green economy – where businesses can make revenue while in balance with people and planet. Our vision is to be a central hub where we’d get paid to receive by-products like spent grains. We’d then transform those by-products into value and make money from the sale of spent goods, whether it be bread, beer, clothing (PET bottles + coffee grinds = clothing).
What has been the most surprising part of running Spent Goods so far?
While I suspected I’d find like minded people amongst my peers and within communities like CSI, I was surprised to find business leaders willing to take a chance to explore this idea with me. Henderson’s Brewery and Drake Commissary – both were businesses I cold called cause I live close by. They both took my initial meetings and almost a year later, they are key partners in this endevour.
How has being a Climate Ventures member impacted your work?
It’s been great to be able to walk into a space where everyone knows what GHGs (Green House Gasses) stand for!
Being an Agent of Change, I’m grateful for the support and opportunities to tell my story. The Start with Why workshops, coaches, fellow CV + CSI members, Peggy Sue, Barnabe, Joanna, Kimberley, CSI Annex and Spadina staff Ana, Gonzalo and Tara, have all directly helped me to shape my story – I couldn’t have gotten this far without their support.
How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in what you do?
Help to spread the word, follow #spentgoods on social media to promote upcycled food as it reduces climate change and supports the local economy. Don’t forget, barley grains can positively impact your personal health as well.
To have a real impact, we need to achieve massive scale – know anyone in food procurement? Please connect us.
If you’d like to help out, we’re currently seeking to identify local breweries, grocery chains, event caterers, restaurants who might be like minded / encourage them to learn more about our mission.
We’re happy to provide CSIers wholesale rates if you need food for your events – already done it with several organizations – its a great conversation starter, embodies your values and honestly, the food is delicious. But don’t take my word for it, check it out and write a review.
BONUS QUESTION: How is it possible that you can make bread from beer and beer from bread? Doesn’t that create a magical infinite food loop?
Yes it does!
Spent grains -> Bread -> Beer = no landfill based GHGs
Surplus bread that cannot be donated is essentially made into breadcrumbs and added into beer mash – the amount of bread varies depending on the beer but up to 30% of the beer can be made with bread – essentially, that’s equivalent to a slice of bread in a bottle of beer according to Toast Ale UK who popularized this concept. Our Sourdough IPA is made with 10% bread (brewer’s choice)
To make bread, we use barley grains used to make beer – the beer is separated from the barley and they typically landfill barley. We save the barley, add organic wheat and make a sourdough bread with it.
While the loop sort of ends once its beer, it’s a great example of how we can upcycle products without food waste ending up in landfill.
I’d stop at this point but there is a company that collected human pee as fertilizer to grow the barley that is then used to make beer, appropriately called the Pisner (which is a bit of upcycling humour.)