Sustainability becoming more important to companies and consumers

Crafting products with a conscience

THERE has been no shortage of trends in craft drinks over the past few years, from the rise of fruit-infused gins to the growing popularity of sour beers.

But as the environment commands more headlines and experts from David Attenborough to Greta Thunberg extol the virtues of living a greener, cleaner lifestyle, sustainability is likely to become an important trend for punters opting for craft products in bars and pubs.

So where do craft producers stand on sustainable production and business practices?

While it could be argued that smaller producers are less likely to impact on the environment than their larger counterparts, purely because they produce smaller volumes – they also don’t have the kind of warchests those companies can dedicate to environmental initiatives.

Yet sustainability is very much a consideration for craft producers, for environmental as well as marketing reasons.

Dale McQueen, co-founder of McQueen Gin, said sustainability “has rightfully been one of the biggest topics in recent times and I think that more consumers, and producers, will continue to embrace this trend”.

“Traceability is key,” said McQueen.

“Offering a narrative on how the process comes to life, from reaping the fields to pouring the serve, is not only a fantastic way of demonstrating corporate accountability, but it can also allow consumers to forge an emotional connection with the brand.”

Niall Macalister Hall, head of another Scottish gin maker, Beinn An Tuirc, producer of Kintyre Gin, reckoned his company’s sustainable credentials are one of its main selling points. 

He said: “We are 100% powered by renewable energy, and plant trees on the land next to the distillery to off-set against any carbon produced in the production of our gin.

“Visitors to the distillery are very interested to know more about these processes and we feel they engage more with the brand as a result.

“Consumers are certainly increasing their attention to such factors and this will only grow in the next few years.”

Not every customer will have the opportunity to visit a brand’s production facility and witness its green credentials first-hand, however, and so sustainable packaging – the vessel delivering the end product to the customer – has become incredibly important, according to Sarah Stirton, marketing and events manager at Stewart Brewing.

“Sustainability is something that is on our minds as a brand and consumers certainly take notice of brands who are making the effort,” said Stirton.

“I think over the coming years we will start to see that make more of an impact on buying decisions.

“The biggest thing brands need to think about is packaging; it’s how you present your product to customers that will form their opinion.

“You could be doing a lot of work behind the scenes to limit production waste etc. but if it’s not reflected by your product on the shelf most customers won’t notice.”

However, for all the steps currently being taken by some of the country’s craft producers, there is still room for improvement, according to Michael Vachon, co-founder of distributor Maverick Drinks.

He said: “Too many brands are only looking at certain aspects of their production to achieve sustainability, when they really need to go deeper into their supply chain and choose suppliers who themselves are putting sustainability at the core of what they do, whether that be for raw materials, labels, glass, transportation, or anything else.”