Winner Sweet Food 2022 - Born Again Protein Brownie Mix
Four years ago, Shawn Leggett started reading more about circular economies and upcycling. What he learned would prove the catalyst for his business, GroundUp eco-ventures, which uses spent grains and coffee grounds from cafés and craft breweries to make “super flours,” baking mixes and coffee oil. “There are a lot of things that we view as waste that have unbelievable amounts of potential and value,” says Leggett. “I wanted to start my own company, but I wanted to do something different. It just made so much sense and was such a positive message.”
Being innovative and sustainable is one thing, but GroundUp’s Born Again Protein Brownie Mix also proved delicious. The moist and chewy brownies have a flavour so deep and satisfying it earned them the Overall Grand Prize honours in this year’s Made in Alberta Awards.
By using byproducts of brewed beer and coffee as source material, GroundUp also isn’t creating any waste products of its own. Currently, it collects spent grains from local craft breweries including Calgary’s Cabin Brewing, High River Brewing, Big Beaver Brewing in Okotoks and Turner Valley’s Fahr Brewery. “The breweries see what we’re doing and they get it. They really like it, and it saves them money because they don’t have to pay to have it disposed,” Leggett says. GroundUp gets its coffee grounds from Blackbird Cold Brew Coffee Co.
Leggett incorporated GroundUp eco-ventures in 2018 and spent the next three years doing research before opening the doors of a 4,000-square-foot zero-waste facility in Okotoks in June 2021.
Leggett says, unlike recycling, upcycling is taking something of little or no perceived value and creating a product of higher value. If you recycle something like glass, it just makes glass. Recycle paper and you get a lower quality of paper every time you recycle it. “When you look at coffee grounds, you wouldn’t think there was any value, but if you upcycle it, you extract the oils and create an ingredient. All of a sudden, it now has a ton of value.”
The Born Again Protein Brownie Mix came about after playing around with a family recipe. It features the company’s own Brewer’s Barley Saved-Grain Flour and its Gluten-Free Coffee Flour, which gives everything a darker colour and has a nutty, chocolatey flavour. “Coffee is used in baking to highlight the flavour of chocolate, so brownies just seemed like the right application,” says Leggett.
Along with being protein-rich, GroundUp’s brownies are also high in fibre. “We know 95 per cent of North Americans only get half of their daily recommended fibre,” he adds. “If you can have a brownie and eat better, why wouldn’t you?”