Toast Ale: Sustainable Beer Brewing
We caught up with Michael Lawrence, sustainable beer supremo from Toast Ale, who have been leading the revolution in sustainable beer production.
In the UK, 44% of bread is wasted. Having partnered with local bakeries and sandwich makers, the company is brewing their beer from fresh, unsold bread and fighting climate change their way.
Michael very kindly took time out from the busy world of beer to give us the low down on the story of Toast and how they have made there way in the super competitive beer category.
1. What is your background? What do you know about beer?
I’ve made a fairly unusual entry into the drinks industry, whilst finishing a masters degree in Urban and Regional Development I was volunteering at a charity called SAVE FOOD and was shocked by the amount of food being wasted around London.
I looked into the issue a little deeper and came across Toast Ale, who happened to be recruiting, thought it would be a fun way of tackling a serious issue so applied and have been here ever since. Most of my beer knowledge has come from jumping in the deep end here at Toast (as well as growing up in rugby clubs).
2. What gave you the idea to launch Toast Ale?
Creating beer from bread has been around for thousands of years, but it was in 2015 that Tristram Stuart, our Toastmaster, first came across this idea at the Brussels Beer Project, Belgium.
Since then, we’ve been rediscovering an old tradition – and giving it a modern twist to help fight food waste, and inspire action to solve the climate crisis.
3. Sustainability is a hot topic…what are Toast Ales sustainability creds?
We directly reduce the emissions of the food industry by using unused fresh bread in our brewing process. This prevents bread from being wasted, and reduces the demand for barley (and associated land and water requirements, and carbon emissions). We also collaborate with breweries all over the world, leading a movement for a more circular economy.
The problems of food waste are more complex than just saving bread, so we donate all our profits (or 1% of revenue – whichever is higher) to charities that are fixing the food system. And we use our voice to educate and inspire. We’re uniquely placed as a product that brings people together, and everything we do is an invite for the sustainability conversation.
In 2018, we became the first UK brewery to certify as a B Corp brewery, meaning we meet the highest standards for environmental and social responsibility, accountability and transparency.
4. How challenging is it to launch a beer brand in an extremely competitive craft beer market?
The craft beer market is hugely competitive – with over 2,000 UK breweries competing on quality, personality and cultural relevance. Cutting through this noise can be extremely difficult, though we are fortunate as an authentic, mission led brand which people seem to really embracing.
The nature of craft means there are a growing number of niches – whether that be sustainably produced, locally brewed or heavily hopped – the craft boom in the last 10 years has given consumers a huge amount of choice.
5. Who or what could you have not done without, in launching the brand?
We couldn’t have gotten to where we are without the support of an overwhelming number of bakers, brewers and drinkers who have supported us along the way.
Those first adopters helped us overcome some of the challenges of brewing with bread, whilst giving us the reassurance that we were on to something pretty special. Each and every person who’s come along on our journey so far has helped push us on to bigger and better things so we raise a Toast to them.
6. Whats the best piece of advice you could give to someone thinking about creating their own brand?
Don’t try to do it alone: seek out wise people, young and old, and listen to the advice you’re given.
7. What are your plans for the brand over 2020?
We launched our new brand positioning and identity in August, injecting more emotion into the brand whilst making sure our planet-saving mission was front and centre.
This year we will be looking to bring this new brand to life by inspiring a community of change-makers to start saving the world by raising a Toast.