The glass is always greener - how are drink makers embracing sustainability?

By Alice Leader

- Last updated on GMT

Sustainable drinks: how is the drinks industry demonstrating its green credentials
Sustainable drinks: how is the drinks industry demonstrating its green credentials

Related tags Drinks Alcoholic beverage Public house Beer Pubs Sustainability Environment

As consumers remain concerned over sustainability issues, what is the industry doing to prove its commitment to being more environmentally friendly?

Consumers are becoming increasingly engaged and more informed about what constitutes a successful sustainable process. But, in the eyes of influential Millennials particularly, business reputations can rise or fall over what that sustainable approach entails.

Delivering safe and high-quality beverage products carry an even higher responsibility to sustain the natural resources to create them and mitigate as little risk as possible across the journey from the supply chain to the consumer.

While there is much activity across the sector in a bid to ease these impacts, Footprint – which provides information on sustainable and responsible businesses and their practices – argues there does not appear to be a cohesive sustainability narrative across the drinks industry and its supply chain, with no platform bring the whole responsible business agenda together.

So, The Morning Advertiser ​has asked the sector, how is it making a difference?

Ditch the bottle

Lager giant’s opinion

How is Carslberg tackling climate change? Sustainability director Simon Boas Hoffmeyer says:

  • Take public transportation to the pub or walk, as it reduces your footprint (and you don’t have to pick up your car the next day)
  • Ask the pub owner if the electricity is from renewable sources
  • Choose bars with furniture made from wood or upcycled products
  • Drink draught beer because it has the lowest carbon emissions
  • Always use glasses that can be washed and re-used
  • If you drink beer from a bottle, drink from refillable bottles
  • Don’t put paper, cigarettes, etc, into the bottles because it might complicate recycling and re-use

With water scarcity in the limelight, manufacturers have a responsibility to contribute to the effective management of water as a finite source, while also making it accessible for operators.

Manufacturer and supplier of sustainable filtered water systems, EauVation, offers operators a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to bottled water.

EauVation’s marketing manager Adam Lenton says: “When looking at their operations, bar owners and managers should consider the availability of ‘real time’ fresh still and sparkling water as an ethical and sustainable alternative to bottled waters.

“The importance of a good water offering is increasingly paramount and due to increased consumer awareness of the negative impact of bottled water on the environment, more people are now looking for sustainable options when drinking and dining out.

“Ditching bottled water and switching to a filtered water system not only helps to boost a business’s sustainability credentials but also provides the opportunity to package up the water offering as a ‘premium’, bespoke service that consumers will think is worth paying for.

“With our range of filtered water systems, it’s now easier than ever for bars to offer high-quality water to customers, without the ordering, storing and chilling of bottles. A true win-win. Kinder on the environment, easier for staff to manage, potential increased profits and greater sustainability credentials for the business.”

The Winchmore, a community pub and Star Pubs & Bars Awards winner in Winchmore Hill, north London, gave up buying bottled water in November 2018 and instead filters and sells its own water in aid of Charity: Water – which provides clean water, education and sanitation in developing countries.

The licensees, and brother and sister team, Mark and Eimear Walsh have installed a filtration system with a company called Pure Water, for which they can offer both still and sparkling water through a remote cooler in the same way beer is chilled.

Mark says: “We all know the strain that human activity is putting on the environment. As an industry, we have to take responsibility and do what we can to reduce our footprint.

“So, by filtering our own water cuts glass and plastic waste and reduces deliveries and, therefore, carbon emissions and pollution too – another issue our customers in London are increasingly concerned about.

“This is a great way for any hospitality operator to give back and add value to people’s lives without affecting their bottom line.

“So, it’s a win all round as far as our regulars are concerned; they’re saving money, helping the environment and supporting a good cause.”

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Au natural

The drinks industry has become more and more of a prominent figure in the public spotlight with its impacts on both carbon outputs through manufacturing processes and distribution, as well as the social sustainability agenda.

It has been argued that sustainability, largely understood as environmental sustainability, can also be viewed as a condition for promoting good health and strengthening the social resources of a community, according to public health consultant, Trevor Hancock.

How does the drinks industry impact consumers’ health, as well the NHS budget being exploited from excess alcohol and sugar consumption?

So with that in mind and the growing number of people abstaining from or reducing their alcohol intake to lead healthier lives, the drinks industry has tried to seize this opportunity by increasing its range and visibility.

Britvic director of foodservice and licensed Adam Russell says: “Alcohol consumption has become a more considered purchase for out-of-home occasions and soft drinks are the most popular choice for those moderating their alcohol intake due to a healthier lifestyle.

“Following the Christmas period, both health and value are firmly under the spotlight as people try to restore equilibrium in their lifestyle and spending. As such, we would recommend striking a balance and promoting soft drinks that appeal to adults as well as alternatives to regular long mixed drinks, but without the alcohol.”

Similar values are also at the heart of what Warner’s Distillery does. Founder Tom Warner said: “We’re all about championing natural ingredients and encouraging biodiversity at Warner’s.

“We began as a farm diversification project, and now Warner’s gin is crafted with water drawn from our own spring on Falls Farm, where we grow many of our own botanicals and harvest honey from 20 beehives.

“As part of reducing our carbon footprint, our goal is to become as self-sufficient in as many botanicals as possible and we currently have one of the largest botanical gardens of any gin brand - three botanical gardens, spread over five acres on the farm.

“Becoming more self-sufficient with our botanicals will enable us to reduce the air, road and sea miles in our production chain. We also ensure that we harness natural and fresh flavours at the peak of seasonality on our farm and farms around the UK.

“We don’t have to rely on imported, dried botanicals for any of our products, and certainly no chemicals or essences go anywhere near our gins.”

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On the road

Climate issues

How is Warner’s Distillery tackling climate change? Conservation and sustainability manager Jonny Easter reveals how the company is doing so:

  • Substituting gin botanicals from overseas with those Warner’s can grow on Falls Farm, thereby reducing the road, sea and air miles of botanicals such as citrus. Warner’s is now self-sufficient in lemon balm, lemon thyme and lemon verbena, which give the incredible fresh citrus flavour in its Lemon Balm Gin
  • Planting more than 750 trees (nature’s ‘carbon capture machines’) at Falls Farm in the past year to create orchards, hedgerows and spinneys
  • Supporting local business and sourcing raw materials from the UK where possible, as well as reducing haulage
  • Recycling and re-using, for example, recycled glass, which is more efficient and emits less CO2 than making glass from scratch. Warner’s uses recycled glass in the manufacture of its bottles and encourages the upcycling of its beautiful glass bottles before they are recycled
  • Warner’s is promoting cycling to work, lift-sharing and public transportation
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As a pillar of the economy, the drinks industry is an important user of different modes of transport, particularly heavy goods vehicles (HGV).

HGVs are responsible for about 25% of CO2 emissions from transportation, according to the European Commission. HGVs are used in the transportation of food and drink, which is why it’s important to monitor and reduce the environmental impact of this transport.

Jules Knight, sales manager at Barsham Brewery, near Fakenham, Norfolk, says: “Norfolk has an abundance of incredibly high-quality food and drink producers, and here at Barsham Brewery we do everything we can to keep our ‘food miles’ as low as possible.

“We grow Maris Otter barley on the West Barsham Estate, which is malted just down the road at the famous Crisp Maltings, and then returned to the brewery here, where we combine it with water from our own bore hole and a variety of British hops to produce our range of six beers.

“We deliver the beer ourselves to pubs and shops every Wednesday and Thursday. We are one of a number of small, local breweries that supply really good beer across the county. We’re hugely lucky in Norfolk to have such a great choice.

“I must admit that when I see beer that was brewed hundreds of miles away, and then transported across the country on massive polluting lorries, I find it a bit puzzling. Norfolk has everything it could ever want right here on the doorstep.”

Star Pubs & Bars has introduced David Attenborough-endorsed ethical wines to its wine range, with a focus of reducing its transport impact. The ethical wines include Sea Change Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc variants that are packaged in lightweight bottles, designed to minimise transport impact and raw material usage.

Star Pubs & Bars wine category buyer Roberta Neave says: “We’re delighted to have Sea Change ethical wines in our range. The response from pubs has been really positive because the brand really resonates with its customers.

“It is good news for licensees’ sustainability credentials, as well as for the planet. As customers are becoming increasingly conscious of the impact of the products they consume, it is important that pubs are seen to respond to these concerns and provide a sustainable option on their wine menus.

“We are seeing an increase in interest from licensees in vegan, organic and sustainable wineries and, as a result, are actively considering our longer-term sourcing plans, from transport to packaging and water consumption.”

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Ahead of the game

While we’re all trying to lead more sustainable lives, you could argue pubs and breweries have always been ahead of the game and are a great example of a circular economy in action.

Heineken UK on-trade director Stephen Watt said: “With draught beer and cider making up around 90% of drinks sales, ‘the local’ arguably already has the most successful, and definitely the largest, closed loop system in the UK.

“Glasses are washed and reused, kegs are returned to be refilled, and bottles and cans are widely recycled at the point of sale.”

According to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), which represents 20,000 of the country’s pubs, 93% of beer sold in UK pubs is sold through kegs and casks and are recycled and reused by BBPA’s breweries for up to 30 years.

In its Brewing Green 2019 report, it told of how breweries also send off their used grains and hops to local farms for animal feed, to local agricultural colleges, and spent yeast to make food items such as Marmite, or even dog and cat foods.

A BBPA spokesperson says: “Britain’s brewing industry is one of the oldest and most revered around the world. To maintain this reputation, it is now more important than ever for us to brew world-class beer in a sustainable way and to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

“From reducing CO2, to lowering water consumption, cutting down on plastic waste or supporting local businesses and agriculture, Britain’s breweries and pubs are more determined than ever to make Britain a world leader for environmental sustainability.”

So, it looks like no pub, brewer or brand is exempt from needing to improve its carbon footprint, and more and more companies taking action. So, could we argue the industry is heading towards a sustainable future?

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