“Overall, our goal is to help the urban economy do more with less. We’re closing an industrial loop where a byproduct is actually food. Waste equals food. We’re very confident in the idea, now it’s a matter execution and building a great company together.” – Dan Kurzrock
Dan Kurzrock grew up on the Bay Area Peninsula and graduated from UCLA with a degree in economics. He realized his passion for entrepreneurship early, creating and selling merchandise in high school. Dan began home brewing while attending college. His interest in brewing – combined with his lifelong commitment to sustainability – provided the inspiration for ReGrained, which he co-founded with his friend, Jordan Schwartz. Dan is currently a candidate for a master’s in sustainable business at Presidio Graduate School.
About ReGrained: ReGrained is a startup company that seeks to reduce food waste by recovering beer grain (spent grain) from San Francisco breweries after the brewing process. Beer grain is flavorful and nutritious (it’s high in protein and fiber) and has been used for baking. Kurzrock and Schwartz pair the spent grain with high-quality organic ingredients to create nutrition bars.
Q: You’re concerned about sustainability and food waste. What in your background influenced your ideas?
Daniel: I started brewing in college and found a waste problem in my own hobby. But my larger concern with waste and sustainability has to do with how I was brought up. My grandfather especially was an influence. At my grandfather’s house, our plates always had to be cleaned of food, all kitchen scraps were mulched for the garden and he “upcycled” and repurposed waste before that was a term any of us knew to use. To this day, I still go through his garage to rummage for bike parts and tools that he probably picked up off the side of the road. His attitude was best summed up as “waste not, want not” and that mentality plus an appreciation for the outdoors through cycling and camping was a huge part of my upbringing. As my business partner, Jordan, and I learned, we had a lot of parallels in this respect.
Also of note, the Jewish summer camps that Jordan and I grew up at between school years stressed the concept of “tikkun olam” – literally “repair the world.” This instilled a sense of ownership about protecting the earth and environmentalism as a core value.
Q: You mention that your hobby was creating waste. Can you tell us more?
Daniel: I was an avid brewer … and my brewing hobby was creating waste through all the grain I was using to make beer. I saw this as a problem, but also an opportunity to create a business with co-benefits for all stakeholders. Our business community today includes brewers, those we source other products from, our other ingredient suppliers, the people who buy our products, our retailers and so on. ReGrained seeks to help breweries save time and resources dealing with their waste while simultaneously providing a value-add, plant-based source of nutrition. As a producer, we can also make an impact with these decisions on our supply chain. For example, we feel strongly that as a sustainable foods company, we would be hypocritical to create trash with our packaging. No product is perfect in that respect, but we used compostable wrappers. Sure, it compromises shelf life and it is more expensive, but the decision aligns with our values.
We believe that our society can have ethical businesses that create value and solve problems … we want ReGrained to be part of the revival of companies that do well by doing good. Jordan and I want to build a company that’s bigger than us. Our vision is to solve a much bigger problem in beer-brewing cities specifically, drawing attention to a key issue – food waste – and providing a creative solution. ReGrained represents something important in our evolving urban/circular economy and making the most of our resources.
Q: Neither of you has a food science background … how did you devise the recipes?
Daniel: Jordan, is our “grainmaster” and grew up baking and making food … it’s been an important part of his life. We arrived at our first recipe with an idea plus some trial and error, incorporating feedback from early customers.
But it all goes back to the beer. When you start making beer as a novice you essentially add malt extract (syrup from malted barley) to water, boil it, add hops, cool it, add yeast and a few weeks later it becomes beer. All grain brewing is bit more advanced. To make 5 gallons of beer in a fraternity kitchen, we would use 15-20 gallons of grain at a time. We attended UCLA and were living in Westwood. At the time, there was no ability to compost where we lived and recycling was accomplished through an underground economy. After we brewed, it literally felt like we were taking a Gatorade-sized cooler full of oatmeal and dumping that into the trash. This felt horrible.
In my brewing prime I was brewing almost every other week and it was a lot of fun. But it led to the question: “Is there a better way to deal with the spent grain from brewing?” It smells good, tastes good … what are other people doing with it? So I went to an online forum. I found brewers making bread, cookies and all kinds of treats. I wondered if I could make bread and sell it to make enough money to pay for next round of beer. With our bars and other recipes in the works, Jordan has elevated this idea to the next level.
Q: Who made your recipes?
Daniel: Jordan is the mastermind. He’s in charge of product development and our baking operation in general. Our original flavor was the Honey Almond IPA bar, but we wanted to diversify for our first official event. So, we created the Chocolate Coffee Stout bar … a bar that we hoped would highlight the roasted flavor of the dark beer grains using coffee and high-quality chocolate.
This all was happening a few years ago when California passed cottage food legislation. We became one of the first licensed home kitchen which enabled us to formally test the recipes with friends, families and at farmers markets. Today, we have the two “flagship” styles but more flavors (and products) will be added soon. Right now, we’re a company that makes health bars, but we have lots of ideas for new ways to use this new resource, this grain recovered from brewing. We want to keep this grain out of compost, which is certainly better than landfill, but we believe that higher forms of upycling are even better.
Q: You’ve got a Barnraiser campaign going on right now. It looks like it’s going be be successful.
Daniel: We’re excited, because it will enable us to bring new recipes to market and scale up our business. We also hope to raise some private investment soon too which would enable us to offer more of a service to the breweries. In practice, the breweries we work with now are more partners to us than we are to them. This is because even though we are producing thousands of bars a month, we currently take very little of their waste.
The average small brewery will use 3,000 pounds of grain a week; there are around 30 breweries in San Francisco alone right now. We would like to get to the point at the end of 2016 where we are the go-to solution for at least all of one brewery’s grain, if not more. Eventually, we’d like to provide the solution for breweries in San Francisco and then expand to other regions.
The broader vision for ReGrained is not only to be a company that uses the ingredient … if we’re going to scale we would become a supplier to other food businesses and a source of a new healthy/sustainable ingredient in their supply chain.
Overall, our goal is to help the urban economy do more with less. We’re closing an industrial loop where a byproduct is actually food. Waste equals food. We’re very confident in the idea, now it’s a matter execution and building a great company together. The Barnraiser will be a huge step towards making this happen.