Rutherford & Meyer cracks scale upcycling

27 Apr 2022 10:14 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

Rutherford & Meyer is building out its Upcycled Grain Project brand with its eye on the prize of “owning the deli category” in the US.

The family-owned business, which was founded by Canterbury farming friends Alison Meyer and Gaye Rutherford in 1996, sells its flagship R&M fruit paste, crackers and wafers via the foodservice and retail channels in New Zealand, and exports to retailers in the US and Australia.

However, the current focus for the company which since 2001 has been owned by Meyer’s daughter Jan and her husband, is expanding the range and distribution of its upcycled deli brand, which it launched three years ago targeting the growing conscious consumer demographic.

“Some companies have an organic line, but we called ours Upcycled Grain Project so it was really obvious from the name on the packet what it was about,” chief executive Jan Meyer told the Ticker.

Using spent grains recovered from the beer brewing process, it went to market with two UGP cracker SKUs, parmesan and rock salt respectively, which are now stocked in selected Foodstuffs supermarket delis and independent retailers.

“We were the first snacking company in New Zealand to go mainstream with upcycling,” Meyer said.

With an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted globally per annum – around a third of food that is produced globally – upcycled products are gaining ground with consumers looking for options to reduce the climate and environmental impacts associated with food loss and waste.

“It’s not only just about upcycling but also about sustainability – reducing our reliance on new resources,” Meyer said.

The fact that R&M had cracked scale manufacturing using the grains supplied by an unnamed local brewery from IPA and APA brewing processes, was crucial for the Wellington-based company and unlocked the opportunity for new products and growing export markets, including the US.

“We know how to dry the grain at volume, which no-one else has managed to do,” Meyer said.

This saw it enter the US with its UGP cracker SKUs earlier this year securing shelf space with well-known national natural and speciality grocery store, Sprouts Farmer Markets, and Meyer confirmed it was in talks about the release of its new range of grain crisps that have this month gone on sale domestically.

“Grain crisps are being presented to conventional and natural retailers in the US. They will launch in July this year,” Meyer said.

“It is a really exciting market to be in. There is a huge amount of opportunity – we want to own the deli space in the US.”

The four-strong range this month went on sale in New Zealand via New World, Pak’nSave, Four Square, Farro Fresh, Moore Wilson’s and Ballantynes, as well as R&M’s website.

The four flavours – Fig and Cardamom, Cranberry and Coconut, Raisin and Rosemary and Orange and Sesame – have an RRP $5.49. The range is also online now through the R&M’s website for $5.50 for a 90g box.