Toast Ale: Best thing since sliced bread

Toast Ale: Best thing since sliced bread

The scope of our global food waste problem is shocking. Every year, 89 million tonnes of food are being wasted in Europe alone, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros. At the same time, 79 million European citizens live below the poverty line and 16 million depend on food aid from charities.

United Kingdom is one of the countries with the highest rates of food waste in Europe. 15 million tonnes of food are wasted every year in the UK and bread is at the very top of that list, with almost 900,000 tonnes of bread going to waste every year. In terms of calories, that would be enough to lift over 26 million people out of hunger.

According to Tesco, the first retailer in Central Europe publishing their food waste data, as much as 44% of all bread produced in the UK is wasted and half of that occurs before it even reaches consumers. Sandwich factories discard the heel and first slice (around 17%) of every bread loaf because consumers don’t buy sandwiches made with crusts -  one sandwich factory can discard 13,000 slices of fresh bread every day. Bakeries and retailers dispose of day-old bread because it isn’t expensive to produce and consumers prefer freshly baked bread. Despite the great work by food banks and charities, far too much bread is being produced and wasted every day.

Toast Ale, brewery making beer out of unwanted bread, is on a mission to change that. Founded in 2015 by Feedback founder Tristram Stuart, Toast Ale has discovered a great way to tackle food waste. Their beer is brewed with unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers, with only other ingredients being hops, yeast and water. In their first 15 months, Toast Ale has managed to recycle 3.6 tonnes of bread.

Of course, at Toast Ale they follow the food waste hierarchy: when they source bread from sandwich makers and bakeries, they always check if the bread could be given to food charities instead and never take bread that could be used for feeding people. However, since bread is such a perishable item produced in unnecessarily large quantities, there is much more surplus bread than charities can take.

Toast Ale sources their bread from local sandwich makers such as Adelie foods, who donate and deliver the bread to them, trying to eliminate their own food waste in the process.

The brewery then donates 100% of profits to Feedback, an organization that investigates the underlying causes of food waste and leads a global movement, working with governments, businesses and civil society to catalyse change in social attitudes and demonstrate innovative solutions to tackle food waste.

Image source: Toast Ale

Author: Marina Tomić (The Croatian Institute for CSR)