The alcohol industry is beginning to embrace food waste

Food waste has emerged as an issue du jour in the lives of young people thanks to recent initiatives from chefs and culinary companies that combat the wastefulness of the modern food system. The alcohol industry is likewise joining the movement by putting surplus product to work in unexpected ways.


New Zealand vodka brand 42BELOW (part of the Bacardi family) launched a unique recycling initiative that converts old cocktail lemons into soap. The fruit used in the 42BELOW Recycled Cocktail Lemons Eco Soap comes from bars across Australia and New Zealand that have signed up to be part of the program. Following collection, the lemons are sent to a lab where they’re turned into liquid soap and then sent back to the bars free of charge. Over the course of two months, the company managed to collect 400kgs of fruit waste—or, in terms of drinks, 3,200 cocktails—amounting to 400 bottles of liquid soap.


San Francisco-based startup ReGrained is attempting to tackle inefficiencies in the food system by upcycling grains used in the beer-making process, transforming them into tasty granola bars. A six-pack of beer requires roughly a pound of grains for brewing, and once the process is complete, the leftovers are typically discarded. ReGrained is working with urban craft brewers to collect the spent grain—which is high in protein and low in sugar since yeast feed on the latter during the brewing process—and turn it into bars in flavors like Honey Cinnamon IPA and Coffee Chocolate Stout.


Ventura, California-based micro-distillery Ventura Spirits is taking an inventive approach to vodka production, not just because the company uses strawberries (an atypical choice for vodka making) but also because those strawberries are deemed too ugly to eat. By purchasing lower grade berries that are perfectly edible, just not pretty, the company is able to distill a strawberry vodka that’s both affordable and less wasteful. All fruit used in the process is locally grown and fermented, distilled, and bottled by hand. The company also offers strawberry brandy made from imperfect produce.