Kudos to the Planet: How the Beverage Industry Approaches Sustainability


Sustainability is a word that comes up a lot these days within the beverage community and at all levels of the industry. From top bars and bartenders producing beverages using zero-waste and more sustainable practices, to companies adopting more eco-friendly measures in their manufacturing and packaging processes, sustainability is no longer just a buzzword. fashion – it’s something everyone is working towards.

Here are some of the industry initiatives that stood out.

Scottish front

Stakeholders in the Scotch whiskey scene have been actively pushing for more sustainability in the industry for a few years now. Many distilleries have also started adopting more sustainable production practices.

In January 2021, the Scotch Whiskey Association (SWA) unveiled a new sustainability strategy which sees the industry commit to achieving net zero emissions in its operations by 2040.

It was an update to its first environmental strategy, launched in 2009, which saw Scottish industry cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 34%, increase its use of non-fossil fuel sources to 28% and use water more efficiently. Remarkably, only 1% of waste from Scotch production is now sent to landfill, a 75% reduction since 2016.

Bunnahabbhain Distillery’s biomass system has almost completely decarbonized the Islay Distillery’s manufacturing footprint.

Some companies like Distell Group, which has three distilleries in Scotland – Bunnahaibhain, Deanston and Tobermory – are diving deeper into the production process to improve their sustainability.

“Our top sustainability priority is to reduce carbon emissions from our manufacturing footprint,” said Angus Colquhoun, Distell’s engineering and risk manager, in an email interview.

“The best way to do this is to optimize manufacturing efficiency before decarbonizing it.

“The individual geography of each distillery influences what can be achieved. For example, at Bunnahabhain, we had enough space available to build a biomass plant, but we couldn’t do that at our other sites,” said Colquhoun, adding that the Bunnahabbhain biomass system has almost completely decarbonized l manufacturing footprint at the Islay Distillery. .

“Our site in Tobermory is very small, so there is no way to build a biomass system there. We hope to be able to start producing hydroelectricity there in the future. We’re already doing this at Deanston, so our focus is on how we can maximize the use of our co-products to offset our carbon emissions,” Colquhoun explained.

According to him, most Scottish distilleries work together to share ideas and information on how to reduce our emissions.

“There is no magic wand yet to decarbonize the industry, so each distillery must do what is best for their site,” he added.

Macallan's Harmony Rich Cocoa Collection comes in a presentation box made in part using special cocoa paper that reuses discarded cocoa pods.Macallan’s Harmony Rich Cocoa Collection comes in a presentation box made in part using special cocoa paper that reuses discarded cocoa pods.

Rethinking the packaging

Another major issue in the beverage industry is packaging, with many companies now scrambling to eliminate unnecessary packaging for their products.

The Bruichladdich distillery recently announced that it will be removing canned packaging from all of its major single malt brands, starting with the heavily peated 10-year-old Port Charlotte.

In a press release, its CEO Douglas Taylor said Scotch drinkers had “become accustomed to thinking that single malt Scotch should come with an outer wrapper as standard”.

“Premium gins, vodkas and mezcals are easily purchased without additional packaging,” Taylor said. “The need to act and influence a change in the perception of quality is becoming more and more necessary. Removing it completely is the right thing to do.

Elsewhere, The Macallan recently launched the Harmony Collection, an annual limited series of single malt whiskeys that sees the brand continue its sustainability journey with a focus on sustainable packaging.

Rich Cacao, the first in the series, comes in a presentation box made in part using special cocoa paper that reuses discarded cocoa pods. They are by-products of the chocolate manufacturing process that would otherwise have been sent to landfill or destroyed.

Beer giant Carlsberg is set to conduct its biggest trial in a bid to launch its fiber beer bottle across Europe.  – Photo: CarlsbergBeer giant Carlsberg is set to conduct its biggest trial in a bid to launch its fiber beer bottle across Europe. – Photo: Carlsberg

In the beer industry, beer giant Carlsberg is about to conduct its biggest trial in a bid to launch its fiber beer bottle across Europe.

Eight thousand new bottles from the group – all fully recyclable – will be enjoyed by customers in eight markets across the continent, including Britain, Poland and France.

The bottle was made with a wood fiber shell and contains a plant-based polyethylene furanoate (PEF) polymer liner. Carlsberg said the materials can all be recycled and claimed it will retain the “taste and bubbly” of beer compared to the same product in glass bottles.

Sustainable cocktails

When it comes to sustainability, some of the best bars and bartenders in Malaysia are already adopting sustainable practices.

In the foreground is Kuala Lumpur’s Bar Trigona, which recently made Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for the third consecutive year, and also a past winner of its Sustainable Bar Award. The bar recently launched a new menu that focuses on five local farms that work closely with Bar Trigona, and also emphasizes the effective and efficient use of every ingredient.

“Our approach is to make the best use of each ingredient, throughout its life cycle. Reusing, recycling and repurposing is a way of life for us,” says Julian Brigget, assistant bar manager.

The third edition of the HennessyMyWay challenge from cognac producer Hennessy tasked bartenders around the world with creating their version of a sustainable cognac cocktail.

The See Trust cocktail by Chloe Tan from Cabinet 8 by JWCThe See Trust cocktail by Chloe Tan from Cabinet 8 by JWCA Malaysian Top 10 was finally chosen, with two of them eventually being named among the Global Top 5 – Rolend Ten from Penang Backdoor Bodega bar and Chloe Tan from Cabinet 8 from JWC bar in Johor Baru.

Ten has opted for a zero-waste concept for its “Cassa(NO)va Highball” drink (the NO in the name refers to the “waste-free” process).

The drink uses cassava plants harvested from Ten’s own backyard. The cassava plant is usually harvested for its roots, with the rest of the plants discarded, but Ten reused its stems as cocktail garnishes and its leaves in edible coasters. He also used the cassava root to produce a delicious soda that blends perfectly with the fruity notes of cognac.

In Johor Baru, Tan applied the zero waste concept to some of the most common ingredients in a bar: lemons, limes, grapefruits and other citrus fruits.

For his drink, “See Trust” (citrus, geddit?) Tan takes all the different parts of a citrus fruit and turns them into different materials. After pressing the citrus, the leftover flesh is infused into a citrus syrup that smells and tastes like a citrus bomb. Citrus peels are blended and distilled into citrus water and made into a refreshing citrus soda.

The leftovers from the distillation and infusion process are then dehydrated and used as a smoking ingredient to impart an additional citrus-woody flavor to the cocktail. The cocktail is topped with a chocolate truffle sourced locally and processed in Pahang, to complement the chocolate note of Hennessy VSOP.


Michael Cheang wants to see more Malaysian bars adopt sustainable practices. Follow him on Facebook and instagram.



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