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Can waste taste beautiful?

4 minute read

One-third of food produced globally goes to waste, and the UK alone throws away 9.52 million tonnes of food per year (the Eco Experts, 2022). That waste accounts for an equivalent of 10 meals per day, every day, for each under-nourished person in the world and is the emissions equivalent of one in every five cars on the road (Gov UK, 2021).

While the UK has reduced the amount of food waste created – we still throw away a huge amount of edible produce. Global targets for cutting national GHG emissions by 2030 along with increased consumer awareness about the impact of food waste has led to the rise of the ‘eco-consumer’, those that take a holistic stance on sustainability and buy from brands that protect nature.

Lulie Halstead of Wine Intelligence stated,

‘Young consumers (millennials and GenZ of legal drinking age) are significantly more engaged with sustainability – they view it as increasingly important to protect the future and have a strong affinity towards sustainable wine certifications.’

(Wine Industry Advisor, 2022)

It is unsurprising, therefore, that brands are feeling the need to respond to calls for climate-conscious production. Shoppers are basing purchase decisions on their ethical and sustainable values, such as opting for plant-based alternatives to reduce the impact of the animal farming industry. Virgin Wines reported a 51% increase in sales for their vegan wine between 2020 and 2022 (Stylus, 2022).

While we are seeing major distilleries and brands taking steps to reduce wasted produce, and in turn their environmental footprint, disruptors in the space are dedicating their entire business practices to support circularity, reduce food waste and positively impact the planet.

William Grant & Sons' brand Discarded Spirits Co. are among this group of eco-conscious businesses on a mission to reverse needless food waste and safeguard natural resources. They use traditionally wasted ingredients, such as banana peel, cascara (the discarded fruit of the coffee berry) and grape skin to create their zero-waste spirits.

I visited their London Cocktail Week pop-up bar, branded ‘the World’s Most Rubbish Bar’ to learn more.

Upon entering the disused warehouse space taken over by the team at Discarded Spirits Co., their vision is abundantly clear: waste can be turned into something beautiful.

The first cocktail handed to guests is done so before revealing the ingredients. A clever way to get past pre-conceived notions that would stop almost any of us from readily trying a drink made from waste banana peel. That being said, the wheelie bin branded ‘the World’s Most Rubbish Cocktail’ does give guests a bit of a clue. 

We learned which key ingredients are used to create their discarded cocktails, as well as how to save our waste products at home. Thinking of throwing away that old orange skin or flat prosecco? Think again! The Discarded Spirits Co. gives consumers and fans tips on saving otherwise wasted produce, with lessons on how to create cocktail ingredients like citrus cordial, vermouth and tepache. 

There is beauty in waste, and guests are encouraged to create their own masterpiece using waste materials, flipping our perspective on used products as something that could once again be treasured. 

Sustainable bars the Little Red Door, Little Mercies and Nine Lives joined the party with their own discarded drink concoctions, made entirely from reclaimed produce.

So, does waste really taste beautiful?

I love what Discarded Spirits Co. have done by creating a space that gives a second life to all its materials, from bars made from reclaimed pub flooring to cups made from coffee husks, nothing here is brand new and nothing goes on to landfill. As a consumer that hates any drinks that come in plastic containers, it was refreshing to attend an entirely ‘guilt-free’ event.

The cocktails crafted by participating bars stood out the most to me, they did an incredible job of creating something delicious with zero waste, with each bar offering only one option for consumers to try.

I wasn’t as taken by the discarded grape skin vodka, but as with all spirits, it truly comes down to taste and preference. It would be challenging to tell in a taste test which spirit was created from waste products, and to me, this is an incredible achievement from the brand.

With a staggering 80% of household food waste coming from homes with more than one person, I love the idea of turning waste into ingredients. By giving consumers the skills to creatively reuse food, Discarded Spirits Co. are delivering value to those of us that have continued making cocktails at home following the pandemic.

As food prices surge, it is also refreshing to see a brand encouraging the public to treat themselves without spending money on their products, simply by reusing otherwise wasted food at home. 

By Hannah Pearson

Global Marketing Manager