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The drinks brands championing sustainability

08 June, 2021

Beam Suntory marked Earth Day 2021 by announcing a $1bn investment in making the business more sustainable. Bacardi took the opportunity to introduce fully biodegradable plant polymer bottles, while Carlsberg announced that it would invest in restoring coastal biodiversity.

If ever you needed proof that sustainability has moved from the fringe into the mainstream, there you have it. It’s been long touted, and with some cynicism, that it would take consumers speaking with their wallets to inspire the bigger companies to shift to a more sustainable approach, and that could be partially driving the current trend. 

According to Capgemini, 53% of global consumers have switched to lesser-known brands because they were deemed more sustainable. These trends are stronger among younger consumers. An AdAge report found that 82% of Gen Z would be more likely to buy an environmentally friendly product, and 90% believe it is the responsibility of companies to act on environmental and social issues, according to a Porter Novelli study.

It’s not easy for alcohol brands to be completely green, with waste an inevitable result of production. To combat this, bars have been recycling waste ingredients into homemade cordials, liqueurs, shrubs and syrups for some time now.

Some alcohol brands are scaling up this concept to commercial levels. Brussels Beer Project and London’s Toast Ale both make beer from surplus fresh bread, and Dairy Distillery, based in Ontario, uses by-products from milk production to create vodka. 

Discarded, owned by William Grant & Sons, produces a Sweet Cascara Vermouth, Banana Peel Rum and Chardonnay Vodka, all of which are entirely made from recycled waste ingredients – save for wormwood and a few botanicals in the vermouth, and some blending in the rum for consistency.

They follow a motto borrowed from the late American folk singer Pete Seeger: “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production."

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The concept was hatched by Joe Petch, the global brand ambassador of Monkey Shoulder, who upon receiving a bag of cascara (the skins of coffee cherries), created a vermouth using a sherry-style spirit wine that had been used to season whisky casks.

Calum Fraser, Discarded’s UK brand ambassador, says: “He had been playing around with the idea of exploring vermouths and sherries, and joined that with the lovely flavours you get in cascara. He created a product and pitched it to the company. That initial iteration of cascara and spirit wine was really similar to what ended up in the bottle.”

There’s no shortage of cascara, given that processing 1,000kg of coffee results in about 400kg of waste and the world has a billion-kilogram-a-year coffee habit. A  er the success of the Sweet Cascara Vermouth, Discarded launched a rum using the waste seasoning rum from Balvenie 14 Year Old casks infused with waste banana skins.

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