Cashing in on coffee waste: Could better scientific search tools turn your waste into wealth?
Global coffee consumption has increased significantly over the past two decades. American consumers drink an estimated 400 million cups of coffee every single day. However, our insatiable thirst for coffee is raising serious questions over what to do with the mountains of waste generated as a result of its production.
A growing number of companies are seeking to make better use of coffee waste by unlocking the commercial potential of this chemical-rich resource. In this burgeoning field, ensuring return on investment is sustainable is as important as the value-add technologies a company chooses. According to LATAM Regional Sales Manager and contributing author, Alfonso Gonzalez Montiel, Ph.D., using scientific search tools to access literature and patent content will give the competitive advantage when creating wealth from waste.
Coffee waste contains a wealth of useful chemicals
Coffee production is a very waste-intensive process, creating around 2 billion tons of discarded material every year. Most of our coffee is sourced from the Coffea arabica tree, whose cherries are harvested to extract the seeds. The pulp coating of these seeds is then removed before the clean grain, known as green coffee, is roasted, giving the beans their familiar dark color and aroma. For every ton of harvested fruit and leaves, just 0.5 tons of green coffee beans are produced. The husk by-products can be used sparingly as fertilizers due to the high organic content. High concentrations of caffeine, tannins and polyphenols make the husks unsuitable for animal feed and, if not properly disposed of, the untreated coffee waste can contribute to water pollution.
Given the scale of the environmental challenge, it's worth giving this waste a second chance. Coffee waste contains a wealth of useful yet untapped chemicals with useful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. An analysis carried out using SciFindern highlights dozens of investigations that show the fruit, leaves and green coffee grains contain high concentrations of chlorogenic acids, along with other useful compounds such caffeic acid, phenolic compounds and terpenes.
This represents a considerable opportunity for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, where these compounds are already used. Some of these products are highly commercially valuable (chlorogenic acids command an average price of $60 per 500 g, while some terpenes typically reach $260 for 50 mg). It's thought that for every ton of pulp and fruit discarded, up to 10 kg of assets could be obtained, potentially worth millions of dollars in profit.
CAS search tools (SciFindern and STNext) allow scientists to explore possible industrial applications. Chlorogenic acids are the most popular in food chemistry. Understanding demand by industry, and how it might change, is essential. Commercial success often depends on entering the market with an efficient solution when that solution is about to take off. The right scientific search tools make it possible to obtain strategic insight and foresight needed to make the right business decisions.
How scientific literature and patent content can give you the competitive advantage
Scientific literature provides access to a wealth of information on the chemical properties and health effects of many of the compounds found in coffee grounds. However, a lack of focus on publishing in these areas has left a considerable knowledge gap in terms of the methods and processes used for the commercial extraction and isolation of these compounds. For those who want to take advantage of the market, this gap means there is a significant opportunity to improve on existing extraction technologies or even capitalize on what isn’t yet taken from coffee.
When it comes to adding value to commercial waste, developing an efficient and financially sustainable process is essential. Before investing in any new technology, it's important to evaluate how current methods fare and how these techniques could be improved. It is vital to build a clear picture of the intellectual property landscape to ensure R&D dollars are invested wisely and any new innovation can be protected. Whether you're an investor, entrepreneur or technologist, to get the right insight, it's critical to use the right scientific search tools.
The right scientific search tools can reveal a wealth of commercial insight
To see how powerful search tools and access to broad scientific insight can give scientists the inside track, let's look at chlorogenic acid, found in coffee cherries, as an example.
A number of different chlorogenic acid extraction methods have been developed, including those based on water, organic solvents, ultrasound and adsorption. While some standard techniques are quite common, newer, more sophisticated methods for reclaiming of valuable coffee substances should not be overlooked. For example, ultrasonic extraction and membrane nanofiltration could be methods with greater potential for innovation, enabling improvements in energy consumption, extraction times and speed, as well as product purity.
STNext searches for patents associated with chlorogenic acid isolated from Coffea arabica surprisingly show countries not associated with coffee production carrying out the most research in finding applications for the substances found in coffee. Only Brazil, Mexico, and India, three of the top 10 countries in terms of coffee production, are doing any research on the subject. Japanese companies are the biggest contributors to the patent literature in this field, highlighting potential patentability opportunities and risks by region.
When you want to extract more from scientific content, turn to CAS
There's a wealth of untapped potential in coffee waste that's ripe for extracting to benefit the environment, growers and consumers as a result. However, capitalizing on this undervalued resource requires developing a strategy that extracts value from coffee's waste products using the most commercially viable processes, comprehensive understanding of the intellectual property landscape, and knowledge of the markets with the greatest potential.
CAS offers a broad range of scientific search tools that give companies access to the world's largest collection of chemistry insights. Providing a wealth of knowledge at scientists' disposal, our solutions ensure competitive advantage by quickly finding applicable information.
Want to leverage expert insight and advanced technology to fuel your business? Learn how CAS can help.
CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, partners with R&D organizations globally to provide actionable scientific insights that help them plan, innovate, protect their innovations, and predict how new markets and opportunities will evolve. Leverage our unparalleled content, specialized technology, and unmatched human expertise to customize solutions that will give your organization an information advantage.