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Sustainable, Upcycled Spent Coffee By-Products

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Kaffe Bueno – Five Upcycled Coffee Ingredients

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Kaffe Bueno has derived a wide range of ingredients from spent coffee grounds, including technologies that address chemically damaged hair and antioxidant activity for skin care and more.

Kaffe Bueno is upcycling the by-products, or “waste,” of coffee production—spent grounds—to unleash sustainable natural ingredients for the hair and skin.

 

In 2022, the global clean beauty market was valued at $7.22 billion, according to Research and Markets, and is expected to reach $14.36 billion by 2028. To meet the growing demands for safe, natural, and sustainable beauty, Kaffe Bueno is upcycling the by-products, or “waste,” of coffee production—spent grounds—to unleash unique, sustainable, natural ingredients for the hair, skin and more.

 The Untapped Value of Coffee

In 2021 alone, 10 billion kg of coffee were consumed worldwide, creating a massive waste stream of spent grounds. Just 1% of coffee beans’ potential value is captured when these grounds are dis­posed of following the brewing of coffee. Worse, when these grounds are disposed of, typically to landfills or incinerators for energy production, they release tons of methane emissions, which are 25-80 times more environmentally harmful than CO2. For perspective, 10 m tons of discarded coffee grounds will produce the same emissions as 40 million round trips from Copenhagen to New York.

 

In 2016, Kaffe Bueno founders Alejandro Franco, Juan Medina and Camilo Fernandez recognized an opportunity to upcycle spent coffee grounds. Colombian by birth and based in Copenhagen, these entrepreneurs had grown up witnessing their grandmothers using coffee grounds as a natural hair dye or as a first aid treatment for cuts and scrapes to reduce inflammation.

 

During their university studies in London, the Kaffe Bueno founders became very aware of the enormous amounts of spent grounds discarded by local coffee shops. They were also acutely aware of the unbalanced distribu­tion of wealth across the value chain, with most of the value going to shop owners and little going to growers. These observations, paired with their childhood experiences with unique coffee ground applications, inspired a pathway to ethical ingredient innovation for the personal care and nutraceutical markets.

 

Benefit-rich, Sustainable Ingredients from “Waste.”

The founders learned that caffeine accounts for only about 1% of the composition of roasted coffee beans. The remaining 99% consists of fibers, polyphenols, proteins, antioxidants, diter­pene esters and other compounds that can address cardiovascular, neurological, metabolomic and skin conditions. Ninety-nine percent of these health-promoting compounds remain present in spent grounds following brewing.

 

This presented a unique opportunity to commercially upcycle these high-value active and functional compounds.  This led to the Kaffe Bueno founders to establish a coffee biorefinery in Denmark that is powered by a proprietary green technology. These technolo­gies allow the company to produce high-performance natural ingredients coveted by industries at a manageable price point and with consistent quality. These ingredients perform as well or better compared to petrochemical or synthetic counterparts and can replace unsustainable naturals such as argan oil and palm oil derivatives. And, because coffee is available everywhere around the world, Kaffe Bueno has set its sights on building biorefineries around the world to reduce transport emissions and costs.

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