In 2023, clean and green drinks are top of the menu. A recent study by IPSOS and Yara International found that almost 60% of European consumers consider a product's climate impact when purchasing drink items.
While a complete industry transformation will take time, it’s crucial that beverage brands show their commitment to a sustainable future. Fortunately, there are many ways for brands to strengthen their environmental credentials—without pouring away their profits.
Quenching the thirst for eco-friendly beverages
The beverage industry isn’t scrutinised as much as the food sector when it comes to waste, yet 800,000 tonnes of drink are thought to go down the drain each year in the UK alone.
Simple changes, such as minimising the use of perishable ingredients to avoid spoil, could help to eliminate much of this waste and the needless environmental costs of manufacturing, processing and distributing these products.
However, brands don’t necessarily need to rewrite their recipes to reduce their environmental impact. Rather, they just need to pay closer attention to the raw ingredients that make up their beverages, and ensure they’re sourced sustainably and used efficiently.
According to NielsenIQ, 72% of shoppers value transparency from the brands they purchase and are 17% more likely to buy from those that are open and honest about the ingredients they use.
Yet, with many brands not even buying directly from the source, it’s impossible to know whether consumers’ sustainability standards are being met.
This is why, at Gunner Cocktails, we have taken a crop-to-can approach to ensure we can account for every ingredient that goes into our drinks.
Taking stock of your supply chain
Cultivating a truly eco-friendly business requires keeping a close eye on every step of the supply chain, even where processes are outsourced. When assessing a supplier, environmental performance—such as the use of renewable energy or the level of material waste—should be considered just as highly as value for money or process efficiency.
With McKinsey research showing 80% of consumer goods companies’ greenhouse gas emissions come from their supply chains, there are undoubtedly significant environmental savings to be made.
For instance, with transport and logistics estimated to cause approximately 24% of all global CO2 emissions, at Gunner Cocktails, we source all natural ingredients locally and we manufacture our drinks entirely in the UK to reduce the distance they must travel to reach our customers.
Packaging is an area where the beverage industry, in particular, can undoubtedly do far better, with a third of the environmental impact linked to supermarket packaging stemming from beers, wines, spirits and non-alcoholic drinks, according to a recent IGD report.
It’s a necessary evil, yet one that can be curtailed significantly by utilising the right materials. At Gunner Cocktails, we package all of our drinks in aluminium cans, as opposed to glass, for instance. It’s lightweight and sturdy, thus reducing emissions from logistics and minimising waste due to damage, and can be recycled almost indefinitely without losing integrity.
Achieving sustainability—one step at a time
Overhauling age-old processes and vast supply chains is a daunting task for the established business, but it's important to avoid cutting corners. With 49% believing brands are guilty of ‘greenwashing’, any attempts to deceive consumers are certain to leave a bad taste. It’s not a competition, so take your time to consider each change and how they may impact your business.
Fortunately, there are numerous certifications available that encourage greener practices and assist brands in implementing them, such as B Corp, Climate Neutral, and the EU Ecolabel. These certifications break the process down into achievable and actionable goals, providing a roadmap for brands striving to minimise their impact. By adopting these certifications, brands can not only do their part to create a cleaner beverage industry, but they also gain a seal of approval to show consumers that are sceptical of brands’ sustainability claims.
A shared taste for sustainability
There’s a growing thirst for sustainability with 87% wanting brands to act now to protect our planet from harm, according to SmartestEnergy.
With these empowered consumers taking a stand on environmental concerns, beverage brands must begin to strengthen their eco-credentials today, or risk leaving a bitter aftertaste that is certain to put customers off their beverages.
About the author: Giles Fuchs is a serial entrepreneur with businesses spanning the property, hospitality and drinks industry. Most recently, he founded the luxury canned drinks brand, Gunner Cocktails, which is served across elite venues such as The Hurlingham Club and Guard’s Polo Club.
As owner of Burgh Island Hotel, a pioneer in the green tourism movement, Giles has years of experience championing environmental progress across a range of industries. Holder of the Gold Award from the Green Apple Organisation for Conservation, Burgh is committed to achieving sustainability through waste reduction, energy conservation, and buying local. Beyond the hotel, Giles has been promoting environmental progress through his latest project, the “Turn the Lights Out” campaign, bringing academics and business leaders together to put pressure on the Government to reduce light-based energy usage.