This Gluten-Free Flour Start-up Aims to Turn Billions of Pounds of Food Waste into Baked Goods

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We’re certainly all familiar with nose-to-tail butchery, never letting an animal part go to waste. And a root-to-stem cooking approach assures no edible part of a plant will be ignored. But what of the by-products of coffee growing — those discarded coffee cherries that once housed your precious precious beans? It’s time for some bean-to-cherry baking.

Based in Seattle (where else?), Coffee Flour is a slick little startup that’s focused onto the literal tons of edible waste created during coffee cultivation. The company has recently made inroads into Brooklyn, partnering with Sunset Park bakers Izzy & Em’s on a line of gluten-free treats for the Brooklyn Roasting Company.

The basic premise is simple: Take the leftover coffee fruit pulp, a fiber- and protein-rich by-product, and convert it into flour. It’s less wasteful on a massive scale and a boon to coffee growers who are guaranteed an income stream (not dependent on fickle seasonal growing conditions).

Coffee Flour co-founder Dan Belliveau, former technical services director at Starbucks, modestly says his company was founded by a bunch of tech guys and engineers. The groundswell of media attention has surprised him. “We’re not really the best salespeople,” he laughs. “These are not guys who are very comfortable in front of a camera.”

Yet the attention has come in droves; dozens of media outlets have chronicled the company’s emergence. Part of it is the novelty — be honest, did you really know what coffee cherries were before now? But it’s also just a feel-good story, with readily apparent benefits to consumers, farmers and bakers alike.

Now Coffee Flour is focused on finding more flour-dependent companies to partner with. Belliveau says it can be hard to convince larger companies to take a risk on something new; proof of concept has to start small. “You go for the little companies first, and that’s how you get the medium-sized companies. The medium companies then help with the big ones,” he says.

In the next six months, expect to see a variety of entrepreneurs emerging with Coffee Flour products. The company has access to 5 billion pounds of coffee fruit pulp; they can accommodate a lot of growth.

Sad news for home bakers though: Coffee Flour has no intention to sell its product on retail shelves. “It’s just not part of our plans,” says Belliveau.

Jesse Hirsch

Formerly the print editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan, Jesse Hirsch now works as the New York editor for GOOD magazine.

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