Globally, humans produce enough food to feed 10 billion people (we are only 7 billion now) yet somehow we waste a third of this. Food waste is one of the biggest climate challenges of our time. Luckily, there are some brilliant ideas out there aiming to tackle this global problem. The ECO coin Award 2018 looks to recognise these innovators and has nominated 3 international projects. These nominees caught our attention with their out-of-the-box concepts, international communities and strong visions on the future of food.
As part of our quest to this year’s winner, we’re interviewing each of the three finalists to learn about their values, insights and future visions. Today we have a Q&A with nominee Toast Ale, a company that makes beer from leftover bread. The company is founded in 2016 by Tristram Stuart, a campaigner on the environmental and social impacts of our food system. In the UK, bread is on top of the most wasted food items, and Toast Ale is on a mission to bring this to an end.
The first beer recipe discovered 4,000 years ago, used bread as a key ingredient. How did you come up with the idea to reintroduce it?
It was in 2015 when the guys at Brussels Beer Project explained how they followed an ancient recipe for making beer from bread. Our founder, Tristram Stuart, immediately saw the three key ingredients for Toast Ale: he knew where industrial quantities of day fresh bread were being wasted all over the world; at the same time, the craft brewing movement had become a global super trend, and finally, Tristram had spent the past 20 years catalysing a global movement of food waste activists and entrepreneurs. Bring all these three phenomena together and you have a delicious pint-sized solution to food waste.
Can you tell us something about the production process of Toast Ale?
The brewing process is very simple – staying true to some of the earliest beer recipes on earth. Beer is one of the earliest known ways of preserving the calories in bread. The sugars in the carbohydrates in the baked grains are converted to simple sugars by enzymes, which ferment over time with the presence of yeast to produce alcohol.
In simple terms, we just replace a third of the barley at the beginning of the process with bread and let it do its magic.
You published a home-brew recipe so households can brew their own bread-based beers. Do you believe Do-It-Yourself is the way to go?
DIY is an important part of the story. Bread waste is so systemic in the UK – from industrial to household waste – and so much bread is never consumed.
We look to tackle problem across three tiers: by addressing the industrial waste through our core range of national beers, tackle waste at a local level through our collaboration programme (which partners local bakers and breweries), and then household waste by raising awareness of the issue. DIY home-brews are a great example of us demonstrating that the solution to these challenges can be both fun and delicious.
The solution to these challenges can be both fun and delicious.
You are donating all your profits to the charity Feedback. How does Feedback aim to reduce food waste?
Feedback works internationally to improve the environmental impact of food. They lead initiatives like Feeding the 5,000, where they cook meals for 5,000 people using quality food that would have otherwise been wasted, or The Pig Idea, where they look to encourage surplus food being fed to livestock and to change EU regulation preventing catering waste being fed to animals.
Toast Ale was setup to convert waste bread into revenues for this work: 100% of Toast Ale's distributable profits in the UK go to Feedback, and even more goes to our partner charities overseas.
What does the future hold for Toast Ale?
We will soon brew with our 1 millionth slice of bread. We want to brew with 1 million more next year, before hunting down our big hairy goal of rescuing 1 billion slices of bread.
In doing so, we want to continue to collaborate with the entire brewing industry to encourage the reintroduction of bread into the brewing process as standard, as well as raising awareness of the environmental impact of all the food that is regularly wasted.
Ultimately, our ambition is to create a circular bakery/brewery economy - not just a circular product or business.
We will soon brew with our 1 millionth slice of bread.
You're nominated for the ECO Coin award, which celebrates innovations in sustainability. How do you feel your work fits in with broader sustainability efforts?
Our circular product story looks to tell a pretty clear message: that the solution to waste can be pint-sized and delicious.
By taking the humble slice of bread and turning it into a recognisable consumer product, we are demonstrating to consumers that sustainability doesn't have to mean wholesale lifestyle changes, it can start with a couple of different choices or tweaks to kick start the process. By trying to simplify what a sustainable lifestyle looks like, we're hoping to provide consumers with the opportunity to make more sustainable choices.
Do you think that Toast Ale should win the ECO Coin Award 2018? Cast your vote by tapping the heart below!