Our newest partner, Renewal Mill, is much more than a baking mix company. Their products are created with economic, social and environmental sustainability at their core. Through upcycling, Renewal Mill prevents thousands of tons of food waste from being discarded, and now, with Fairtrade cocoa, they’re prioritizing the welfare of farmers too. Check out our conversation with co-founder Claire Schlemme about the company’s origins and goals.
Please introduce yourself – what is your role with Renewal Mill?
Hi! I’m Claire Schlemme, the co-founder of Renewal Mill. I’m an ardent environmentalist who saw a need to fix a broken food system in order to protect the planet. My lifelong interest in food and nature began to intertwine when I was diagnosed with cancer in my early 20s. This experience made me passionate about understanding the links between food and health, both of our environment and our own bodies. I co-founded Boston’s first organic juice company with the aim to connect local farmers and city-dwellers through nutritious and delicious foods. This experience exposed me to two primary challenges: food waste and the lack of affordable nutrition. Committed to finding solutions at the intersection of food, sustainability, and accessible nutrition, I launched Renewal Mill.
Tell me about your company. What’s your mission?
After founding Boston’s first organic juice company, I came face-to-face with food waste and the inefficiencies present in our food system. Looking at the piles of organic fruit and vegetable pulp at the end of each day, I felt there had to be a better way to utilize all of the things we grow. Throwing out this pulp (arguably the most nutritious part of the plant!) meant throwing out all of the resources, like water and energy, that had gone into growing it. It also meant that the bit of the produce that was used needed to be sold at a high price point, which meant it wasn’t particularly accessible nutrition.
I then had a fortuitous conversation with the owner of a tofu company. We bonded over their shared struggle with “byproducts”. Tofu production produces an incredibly nutrient-dense pulp called okara. The tofu company was operating at such a scale that there was a real opportunity to upcycle okara to feed people rather than have it be thrown out. And so, Renewal Mill was founded. Our mission is to find places like the tofu factory where delicious nutrition is unnecessarily being wasted in the food system and bring it to market in the form of novel, superfood ingredients and premium, plant-based pantry staples. In doing so, we create more sustainable, crave-worthy food and help conserve the planet’s precious resources.
What is the story behind Renewal Mill’s baking mixes?
When we started working with byproducts and transforming them into upcycled flours, we wanted to create a way for folks to engage with and experience the novel ingredients in a fun and easy way. We are thrilled and honored to be working with Alice Medrich, one of the foremost baking and alternative flour experts, for our formulations. Alice has created a line of baking mixes that are plant-based, gluten-free, and all only require one bowl, oil, and water. We also love that the history of home cooking and baking is one that honors the mantra of “don’t waste.” We bring that concept back to the modern kitchen in a new way.
What makes your product unique?
We are the home of climate-friendly baking. Our products are better for the planet and crafted intentionally without compromising on taste or performance. We are one of the first companies to have our products Certified Upcycled by the Upcycled Food Association and all of our baking mixes and flour are carbon neutral. Our goal is to show that eating food that’s good for the planet is easy, fun, and delicious.
Why did you choose to certify your product Fairtrade?
The core of our business is sustainability and we approach that word in a broad sense. We actively structure our company so that sustainability, environmental, social, and economic, are infused into everything we do. One of the most impactful things we can do beyond upcycling is carefully and thoughtfully sourcing the other ingredients that we use to craft our products. For us, Fairtrade is an obvious choice when it comes to critical ingredients like cocoa.
How do you use your business to create a more sustainable and/or equitable world? How do you give back?
We are so proud that we’ve rescued over 250,000 pounds of nutrition from unnecessarily entering the waste stream. Because our food system is so inefficient (globally about 30% of what is grown is never consumed), reducing food waste has been identified as one of the top solutions to climate change. Since this is our central work, we ensure that the rest of our business model supports this mission. We are members of 1% for the Planet, our packaging is certified plastic negative through a partnership with rePurpose Global, and we will be certified Climate Neutral early in 2022. We also occasionally set periods where a portion of our sales are given back to organizations in Oakland.
“We’ve rescued over 250,000 pounds of nutrition from unnecessarily entering the waste stream.”– Claire Schlemme, co-founder of Renewal Mill
What’s next for Renewal Mill? Where do you see your company in 5 years, for example?
We are energized by the opportunities that exist to upcycle byproducts into craveworthy food. We’re already working with an upcycled heirloom corn flour. We also have some exciting partnerships in the works for 2022 to bring new products to market that are made with upcycled ingredients. In 5 years, we hope to be a household food brand, known for our commitment to delicious food that also helps the planet.
What inspires you and your team to work towards business for good?
Business for good is inspiration! Having a greater purpose or goal is an incredible motivator. My other motivation is my 2 year-old son Arlo. It is my greatest hope that we can hand over a planet to the next generation that is livable and full of wonder.
What is one key takeaway for customers to know about Renewal Mill and your work with Fairtrade?
Fairtrade helps us easily communicate to customers our commitment to thoughtful ingredient sourcing. We take pride in using the best, most sustainable ingredients (including our own upcycled ones!) and by working with Fairtrade, we’re able to effectively illustrate our values.
How can a customer get involved with your brand?
Where can customers find your Fairtrade products?
We are in about 600 stores – you can check our webpage for a store locator. We’re in all Whole Foods in Northern California (look for us coming to more Whole Foods next year!). We’re also online at places like Thrive Market, FreshDirect, Good Eggs, Amazon, and Imperfect Foods. And of course you can find us on our website: www.renewalmill.com. That’s the best place to find our kits, gift sets, and limited edition flavors.
We’re in this together
Fairtrade America partners with brands on the journey to certification and beyond. We can help with everything from finding a certified supply chain to marketing your newly certified product.Get in Touch