Going against the grain: University and brewer combine upcycling efforts

Published on 20 July 2021

The University of Dundee is teaming up with a local microbrewery to explore ways of creating novel food products from leftover ‘spent grain’ to reduce waste and ensure a more sustainable brewing process.

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The University of Dundee is teaming up with a local microbrewery to explore ways of creating novel food products from leftover ‘spent grain’ to reduce waste and ensure a more sustainable brewing process.

Researchers from the University’s School of Business (UDSB) will be working with Dundee-based Law Brewing Company to identify food producers interested in upcycling the used grain, which accounts for around 80% of the waste material generated from brewing.

The upcycling of spent grain is more widely known in the United States, where the rise of the craft beer scene has led to it being used to produce the likes of flour, bread, granola cereal, high protein bars, pizza dough and dog biscuits. The idea is slowly gaining traction in the UK, and this new collaboration hopes to tap into opportunities to develop products on a commercial level.

UDSB’s Dr Daniel Clarke and Dr Keith Dinnie are actively involved in research into the food and drink industry. They will leverage their knowledge and contacts to benefit Law Brewing Co and other local companies looking to develop new products based on upcycling spent grain.

UDSB recently became a signatory of Principles of Responsible Business Management Education (PRME) which is underpinned by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The collaboration with Law Brewing Co therefore strongly aligns with the mission to stimulate economic growth in an environmentally responsible way.

“The idea of tapping into contemporary consumer appetite to support local and sustainable practices is gaining momentum and this opens up access to new markets and ways of supporting more sustainable business practices,” said Dr Clarke.

“The upcycling of spent grain from the brewing process to create new and innovative products presents an opportunity to do more while producing less waste, thereby delivering both environmental and socio-economic opportunities that otherwise might not be realised if grain continues to be sent to landfill.

“Best practices developed through this project might also be shared with other brewers of similar size and scale, providing opportunities for regional engagement and collaboration.”

Dr Danny Cullen, founder of Law Brewing Co, has previously delivered guest lectures to business students at Dundee as part of a module focused on food and drinks marketing/tourism.

He said, “The upcycling of food waste is gathering momentum and that led me to discussions with Daniel and Keith as well as with the Circular Economy and Zero Waste Scotland teams about using spent grain from brewing to produce new edible products.

“With grain accounting for such a high proportion of the waste generated by brewing, there is plenty of raw material to work with. The spent grain has most of the sugar removed and is still high in protein and fibre, minerals and vitamins, making it an ideal waste product for upcycling into flour or other food products.

“This idea is certainly more common in the USA but nothing significant has been produced on a commercial level in the UK so I thought collaborating with other local organisations and companies committed to sustainable consumption would be the best way to kick off the idea.

“The biggest issue is the need to dry the grain quickly after brewing to prevent it from spoiling. This means large drying ovens will be required if upcycling large quantities so hopefully working with the University will help identify partners for whom this will be commercially viable.”

Anyone interested in working with the University and Law Brewing Co on the project should contact Dr Clarke on d.clarke@dundee.ac.uk.

The project was supported by the University’s newly established Innovation and Impact Development Fund (IIDF). The aim of this fund is to encourage the academic community to engage with and facilitate regional collaboration with SMEs and other potential partners. More information about the IIDF is available by emailing Jamie Henderson on J.Z.Henderson@dundee.ac.uk.


Grant Hill

Senior Public Affairs Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768