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SB Voices: Premiumising waste

In the hospitality industry, luxury once stood for opulence: old and rare spirits, expensive cuts of meat and crystal glassware. But in 2017 food waste – or rather, lack of it – is a sign of excellence, writes Annie Hayes.

Sustainability and waste are ‘entering the vocabulary of prestige’

Sustainability is the buzzword for 2017, and don’t get me wrong – it’s about time. Historically the cocktail world has hardly been synonymous with environmental sustainability; a factory of discarded plastic straws, bottle caps, napkins, and fresh fruit peels, not to mention excessive water waste.

And no one really cared – by and large the spirits industry is an aspirational market, and cocktails are a luxury commodity. Enjoying a drink in a bar allowed us to mentally relinquish those responsibilities. For a few hours it was someone else’s problem.

But times are changing. “Sustainability and waste are increasingly entering the vocabulary of prestige,” William Grant’s recent market report stated, adding the eco-friendliness is becoming a “premium signifier”.

Indeed, according to drinks giant Diageo – which earlier this week compiled a list of ‘cocktail trends that will change the way you drink in 2018’ as part of its World Class competition – nearly one in two customers are willing to pay a 10% premium for goods produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

The on-trade is leading the charge on this; polishing and repackaging waste destined for landfill as as upmarket and desirable. It’s brilliant.

Last year sky-high hangout Duck & Waffle, headed by cocktail genius Rich Woods, released an Urban Foraging vs Urban Decay summer menu featuring ingredients “foraged” in the capital city – tree bark, wood ants, moss – and food waste such as banana skins, asparagus ends and burnt toast.

Meanbwhile, self-described “premier shopping destination” Selfridges on Oxford Street played host to food waste popup wasteED; which collaborated with British and European farmers, fisherman, producers, butchers and suppliers to present a fine dining experience with social responsibility at its core.

And this week, Dandelyan’s Ryan Chetiyawardana and Doug McMaster of Brighton-based zero-waste restaurant Silo transformed the former White Lyan site into a “luxury sustainable drinks-led dining experience” called Cub.

The trend even spawned a sustainable cocktail competition – The 42Below Cocktail Earth Cup, which welcomed entries such as Infinity, which used pear cores that would otherwise be thrown away; From Tank to Table, which utilised rain water; and Let’s Get Tropical. ‘a closed loop cocktail’ that claimed to create zero waste.

Best of all, this is surely just the beginning. Those who aren’t on board should take note – for the sake of their business as well as the planet.

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