Sustainability continues to influence the beverage alcohol market and according to the IWSR, the prevailing sense of needing to do better – be it environmentally, economically, socially or health-wise – is key to many emerging consumer trends.

Recycled Ingredients and Food Waste

The IWSR states that “it is estimated that one-third of the food produced globally goes to waste, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The UN estimates that if farmers globally fed their livestock on food waste and on agricultural by-product, enough grain would be released to feed an extra three billion people.”

As a total industry, Scotch Whisky is already actively engaged with greener initiatives and its representative body, the SWA launched The Scotch Whisky Industry Environmental Strategy back in 2009, the first of its kind kind covering an entire Scottish sector. It covered voluntary targets for water, use of non-fossil fuels and energy efficiency, packaging, and sourcing of sustainably produced casks and it was revised in 2016.

But which specific drinks brands are already taking the Green path to a more sustainable future? Here are just a few examples…..please contact me with any other suggestions to be added.

Toast Ale, produced by London’s Hackney Brewery is made with unsold surplus bread. Why bread? Bread is a hugely popular staple, but also tops the list of most wasted food items. In the UK, up to 44% is never eaten. In our homes, we waste almost 900,000 tonnes every year.

Toast Ale was founded in 2015 by Tristram Stuart. He is an author and campaigner on the environmental and social impacts of food production (see his TED talk on the topic below). All of the Toast Ale profits go to their charity partner Feedback.

Misadventure Vodka, produced by San Diego based Misadventure & Company, is made from excess unsold baked goods from a local food bank. This is the world’s first distillery making spirits from surplus bread whilst reducing emissions in the process. Below is also a video from them.

Discarded, produced by William Grant & Sons, is a vermouth made from cascara, the fruit of the coffee berry, which until recently was cast aside as a waste product of coffee production.

360 Vodka, produced by the McCormick Distilling Company, takes its green credentials very seriously. The American brand claims to use an energy efficient distillation process. Its bottle uses label paper which is chlorine-free, the glass bottle contains 85% recycled glass bottle material and it donates to charity one dollar for every bottle returned to encourage recycling. The full detail of their green initiatives, including FOREST 360 conservation effort, can be found by clicking on the brand name on this blog post.

Don Q Rum, produced by the Serrallés family in Puerto Rico, was originally created to utilise the huge amount of waste produced by their main business: Sugar.

“When you make sugar, your main byproduct is molasses. From the 16th to the 20th century, sugar cane farms engulfed Puerto Rico. Before economic factors shifted sugar production to Brazil, India, and other nations, farmers on the island would harvest the sugarcane and strip its leaves.”

“Instead of treating that excess foliage like trash, some extracted juice from the leaves and heated it to create a rich syrup. And that became our raw material for making rum” Robert Serrallés, Don Q Rum 6th generation rum maker

Robert Serrallés also has a PhD in environmental science and the company has invested almost US$20 million to improve its sustainability practices and try to create a closed-loop distilling process. For more information, click here.

Sachi, produced by a research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS), is a sake-like alcoholic drink made from tofu whey, a by-product of tofu production.

“Very little research has been done to transform tofu whey into edible food and beverage products” Chua Jian Yong, who worked with Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan on the project

“I had previously worked on alcohol fermentation during my undergraduate studies in NUS, so I decided to take up the challenge of producing an alcoholic beverage using the whey.” 

Kellogg’s Beers, produced by Salford brewery Seven Bro7hers, are made from the grains discarded during the cooking process at the Kellogg’s Manchester factory in the UK. Variants include Cast Off Pale Ale (from Rice Krispies), Throw Away IPA (from Corn Flakes) and Sling It Out Stout (from Coco Pops).

“Our primary objective is to convert every kilo of grain we buy into food that we can sell. However, that’s not always possible.” Kate Prince, corporate social responsibility manager for Kellogg’s UK and Ireland.

The beverages are made from rice-based flakes that are either overcooked, uncoated or discoloured and therefore have not passed Kellogg’s strict quality control and would not have made it into the pack.

The Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery in Scotland has not released a product as such, at least not yet, but they have run trials on the utilisation of peas rather than wheat in the production of gin.

This ‘field to bottle’ distillery is experimenting on ways to reduce the environmental footprint of their gin production, as the starch of pea can be used instead of wheat to produce alcohol whilst reducing the use of nitrogen fertilisers.

“Following two distillations to produce a neutral base spirit, botanicals including juniper and coriander can be used to produce a final gin that retains the same sumptuous, aromatic flavour as gin made from cereal grain spirit.” Kirsty Black, Arbikie Distillery

Professor Mike Williams from Trinity College Dublin, adds: “Peas fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, and therefore don’t require applications of polluting synthetic nitrogen fertilisers. Furthermore, pea hulls and distillery co-products provide protein-rich animal feeds that can replace soybean imported from Latin America, where soybean cultivation is driving deforestation”.

The study published in Environmental International can be found by clicking here.

As the IWSR has stated, “expect more products to come that make use of otherwise wasted ingredients, and the emergence of innovative production techniques to create new and unique drinks from unlikely, or previously under-utilised produce. The consumer appetite for them is certainly already there and is set to increase as food waste becomes an ever-bigger news story and social concern.”

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