Can Cosmetics Save the Obscene Food Waste Dilemma?

‘Perfect’ bananas picked to grocery store standards result in 40% going to waste. Image source:

Ever wonder what happens to those bananas that don’t bend just right, or fruit that doesn’t meet the standard size? Every supermarket has its own style guide to reject fruit and now we are showing growers how to turn their high-quality produce that doesn’t make the visual cut into valuable botanical extracts. Growers’ expansion into new markets is real and immediately achievable, putting new revenue streams back into our primary industry.

At the end of the day manufacturers dehydrate or freeze plants before the extraction process, so we don’t judge on appearance, but rather on the powerful phyto-actives that lie within the cell. When we harvest Waratah flowers for example, they might not be consistent or the uniform size that florists are looking for, but our tests show that their bioactivity is on par with the perfect-looking ones. We love showing growers how their once ‘b-grade’, or visually imperfect, crops are just as valuable to our industry.


With consumer consciousness on the rise, the war on needless waste is driving innovation across a number of sectors to help farmers find new revenue streams for less than perfect-looking (but nutrient-dense) produce. Recent estimates found the average person wastes two fridge-fulls of food every year (298kg per person) and truck loads are rejected before making it to the supermarket. 20-40% of all food grown never leaves the farm!

Traditionally, much of that waste has gone to livestock feed or landfills, but now other industries are capturing the value of this untapped resource of natural phyto-activity, especially the Australian Beauty industry. A-beauty is more than our powerful native species and accessing natural plant profiles, it has become synonymous with eco-sustainability, traceability, inclusion and community development. We see the strengthening of our primary industry from boutique and cottage industry to expansion for global demand.

Ronni Kahn AO, CEO and Founder of OzHarvest, pictured with the amount of food wasted per year by one person – 298kg! Image source:


Ironically, we’ve become picky with the presentation of our produce, whilst shifting to embrace natural beauty through the #NoMakeup movement. The cosmetic controls placed on our food have coincided with a market prioritising potency and purity of natural and organic ingredients over synthetic standardisation. The increased consumer demand for natural, safe and sustainable sources of ingredients has created a market that is ripe for harvesting the compounds of these plants.

NATIVE EXTRACTS works with Australian Growers and Indigenous Wild Harvesters to value-add their crops, to introduce them to new markets with high value and low volume, and to take advantage of this untapped resource of bio-activity. This extends growers’ harvest cycles, expanding the value of their crops across the entire year. Taking greater advantage of a species’ annual harvest cycles mitigates the risk of poor harvests as well.  While many food banks freeze fresh produce, or create jams and shelf-stable products to reduce waste, we preserve the phyto-compounds for use in skin and hair care through our innovation in Cellular Extraction, which extends the shelf life of the water-soluble plant profile as it exists in its cell – in its entourage.

‘Imperfect’ Waratah, perfect for Cellular Extracts. 


Many of the compounds we capture in our extracts come from the seed, fruit, leaves and flowers of produce, which contain rich sources of bioactive compounds, such as Vitamin C, polyphenols, procyanidins, flavone glycosides, EGCGs, anthrocyanin, rutin, and the list goes on... We have the largest library of water-soluble plant profiles, analysed by a university plant science laboratory and can identify the watersoluble phyto-compounds in any species. The peels can actually carry twice the amount of total phenolic compounds as that contained in the fruit pulp. We can also repurpose by-products, like we do with the grape seeds we source from wineries’ by-products. We not only reduce on-farm surplus, but we often use entire fruits and plants for the majority of our extracts.

There is a big difference between handling surplus and “waste stream”. While we are currently focused on revaluing surplus, we can see waste stream by-products like avocado seeds as a valuable resource and are investigating numerous uses for them as well. As more and more brands aim to reduce their carbon footprint, they are turning to NATIVE EXTRACTS, as our innovative Cellular Extraction process is highly efficient and eco-sustainable:

·      We use comparatively less plant material than other extraction processes, which prevents over-harvesting of native bushfoods, and delivers a superior extract to the past processes of maceration and percolation that require high volumes of material.

·      We use rain-fed, purified water in our extraction process that we put through a reverse osmosis and deioniser filter system, resulting in hospital-standard quality, reducing the need to draw from public supply.

·      We offer concentrations, which means less shipping and freight costs, and moreover less CO2 emissions, lowering our carbon footprint.

·      Our extracts have a longer shelf life as the compounds we harness are in their entourage and remain active for much longer than other extracts. Eg: Natural Vitamin C in our Kakadu Plum Cellular Extract is active for over 24 months – a record world first!

·      In terms of our lab’s waste, we recycle packaging and a recent audit showed that we are on par with the average domestic household, which is astounding for a 400m2 factory. We compost spent plant material where possible.

Lisa Carroll, NATIVE EXTRACTS' Managing Director, works with Australian growers and wild harvesters to introduce new market opportunities


There is an enormous opportunity to bring this surplus bioactivity to the beauty market and replace outdated extraction methods with Cellular Extraction. Australian brands are asking us to replace their internationally sourced actives (non-native botanicals) to improve their natural traceability story and ‘Australian Made’ claims, and to source species grown in pristine environments. More and more brands are beginning to walk the talk, assess their supply chains and procure locally manufactured ingredients to minimise unnecessary transportation of ingredients – especially water! 

The proof is in the produce. We recently were asked for a Tasmanian Lavender Cellular Extract to replace a European sourced extract and it was exceptional in terms of quality, but also in lowering freight costs and carbon footprint, increasing the value of our primary industry, supporting the local economy, and ultimately supporting our growers and planet.

Want to join us in sharing this story? Get in touch to find out what else Cellular Extracts can bring to your brand.

The NATIVE EXTRACT difference - we invest in your brand development to achieve the best naturally.  Design your waste-reducing natural heroes - Email us your product brief for potent, natural extract recommendations.