Susgrainable is a BC-based “up-cyclers” company that take spent grain from breweries and process it into high-fibre, high-protein, sustainable flour for baking mixes. It’s an ingenious concept that becomes truly inspiring when you consider the fact that spent grain is quickly perishable and over 450,000 tons are disposed of annually by craft breweries in Canada.
“The idea for Susgrainable was born out of my MBA at the University of British Columbia in 2018,” explains co-founder Marc Wandler. “I had a background in healthcare, specifically working with diabetics, and I met someone from the beer industry who was telling me about their problems with producing a lot of by-products that are just thrown out.”
After Marc learned that the healthiest part of the barley grain was being thrown out by breweries, he concocted the bright idea for rescuing this nutritional resource. Once he connected with his co-founder Clinton Bishop, a business administrator who’d grown up on a barley farm, that idea became a reality. They struck up a few partnerships with interested breweries, began collecting the spent grain after brewing, and began figuring out how to process it.
“When we first started creating samples our testers would tell us, ‘This is so good,’ and that’s where my background in kinesiology served me well, because I could tell from their body language that they didn’t quite mean it,” says Marc. “We blended up our earliest batches in a Vitamix and that didn’t create a fine enough flour.”
Gritty texture aside, there were also problems of cost. When they started out, the cost of a bag of their flour was $36. How were they possibly going to scale the business? After trials using Clinton’s grandmother’s flour mill, and increasing volumes of production runs they got the cost down to $20/kg. Five years late and they have the cost down to $8/kg with goals of reaching $2/kg by the end of the year with their current tech.
“Clinton will be exploring a pre-processing step that happens at the breweries. So, that’s going to make us even more efficient. Right now, we are a premium product, but inclusivity means bringing the cost down as much as possible, so as many people as possible can enjoy our products.”
Of course, many people are already enjoying those products, especially Susgrainable’s banana bread mix. That’s why Clinton and Marc decided to make this SKU the centrepiece of an upcoming retail campaign.
“Retail was telling us, ‘This is such a nascent product, we’re going to need to educate consumers,’ so we decided to create Point of Purchase displays.”
That’s where Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) comes in. Leveraging the Susgrainable team’s passion for communication, they collaborated on fun, eye-catching digitally printed displays that will be set up right next to the bananas at select Safeway and Thrifty Foods Locations.
“It was fun to put this together. We focused the top panel on parents and the bottom panel on kids. We find that kids are learning a lot about sustainability in school, and parents generally know less. But parents are increasingly understanding that fibre is an important component of gut health to prevent metabolic conditions like diabetes. GLBC was really good to work with. The team is super customer focused and we learned a lot from the company.”
As the company grows, exciting developments are underway. 2024 is the year Susgrainable finally gets their own facilities. They are growing their team—the last position they posted attracted 200 applications in two days. And they have been featured on an episode of Dragon’s Den.
“We like to say, ‘Impact first, finances second.’ We’ve figured out metrics for the positive impact our company is making, and we share that data a lot. The more you order, the greater the impact. Our goal is for the finances and the impact to grow together.”
We love this vision and we’re so proud to partner with Susgrainable. Check out their displays at a grocery store near you!