Sustainability continues to influence the beverage alcohol market

Food waste: How will it affect the drinks industry?

With an ever-diversifying market and changing consumption habits, it’s a challenging but interesting time for drinks innovation.


Key to many emerging consumer trends for the coming year is a prevailing sense of needing to do better – be it environmentally, economically, socially or health-wise. As consumers become increasingly politically and socially engaged, many innovations and marketing, sourcing and packaging choices will focus those specific areas. That’s not to say consumers aren’t also looking for a little excitement and luxury – but the ways in which they select and experience brands is certainly changing.

Recycled Ingredients

With single-use plastics leading the media stories in 2018, this year looks set to bring another environmental and indeed social concern to the fore: food waste. 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.

Moves to combat food waste are already underway, at both governmental and grassroots levels. in December 2018 the UK government appointed a ‘food waste champion’ to help reduce the number of meals the country throws away each year – currently in the region of 250 million. Ben Elliot, Co-Founder of the lifestyle and drinks group Quintessentially, has been set the task of ceasing food waste going to landfill by 2030 and oversee a £15m pilot scheme, the Food Waste Fund, which is set to redistribute surplus food.

What does this mean for drinks? Well, there are already a number of products on the market that use food waste as an ingredient: Toast Ale from London’s Hackney Brewery is made with unsold surplus bread; Leeds-based Northern Monk brewery created a farmhouse pear ale that is said to be ‘zero waste’, as it is made from leftover food from UK supermarkets; and San Diego-based distillery Misadventure & Co. has produced a vodka made from excess unsold baked goods from a local food bank. More recently, William Grant & Sons launched Discarded, a vermouth made from cascara, the fruit of the coffee berry, which until recently was cast aside as a waste product of coffee production.

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.


Radius, the IWSR’s innovation tracker, brings you the latest product launches and new consumer trends driving the market. Available online or as quarterly trend reports.

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