Food waste is a mounting problem in our landfills. Alarmed that 40 percent of all food in this country ends up trashed, intrepid companies are turning former discards into innovative artisan finds. Here are 3 companies that are preventing tons (literally thousands of pounds) of food from ending up in the trash.

ReGrained: Dan Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz were avid home-brewers in San Francisco, churning out 5 gallons of beer at a time, only to be stuck with 15 pounds of spent barley at the end. Curious, Kurzrock took a taste. "It was like oatmeal, with a fibrous texture and maltiness from the grain,'' he says. "We tried baking with it and it imparted a great nutty flavor."

Excited about the barley's potential, they decided to turn it into granola-like bars: Honey Almond IPA and Chocolate Coffee Stout (and no, the bars aren't alcoholic). Each bar is built around spent grain (which has nearly as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal) donated from three nearby craft breweries.

Fruitcycle: Strolling through a U-pick orchard one day, Elizabeth Bennett had an epiphany upon spying ripe fruit left to rot on the ground: surely there had to be a way to keep good apples from going to waste. So she created Fruitcycle, a Washington, D.C.-based company that buys discounted bruised and misshapen apples (mostly Fujis) from local farmers, trims them up and turns them into crisp, dehydrated apple snack chips.

Thanks to her, more than 15,500 pounds of apples-which would have been composted, fed to livestock or just dumped-are turned into snacks each year. Her company also makes a point of employing women who were previously homeless or incarcerated, because she believes that, like her apples, everyone deserves a second chance.

Tretap: One gallon of maple syrup comes from 40 gallons of sap, much of which is water that gets poured down the drain. Rather than waste this water that is naturally filtered by maple trees, Vermont-based Tretap is recapturing it for a low-calorie, low-sugar bubbly beverage. Tretap has four flavors: maple, cranberry, blueberry and cucumber, each lightly sweetened with maple syrup. "Our healthier alternative to soda comes from a trusted source of water that's not depleting any reservoir, spring or glacier," says Aaron Harris, founder and general manager.

March/April 2016