Everywhere you look, companies are making changes to their business models in order to be more eco-friendly. Sustainability’s importance continues to grow in the industry, especially in the alcohol sector.
A survey conducted by Sanya Carley and Lilian Yahng found that 59% of U.S. beer drinkers would be willing to pay more for beer that has been brewed using more sustainable processes, such as energy efficiency or carbon saving measures. On average, respondents were willing to pay $0.22 more per 12-ounce bottle than the price they already paid for their favorite beer.
Using the Lost Fruit From Winemaking
There is a clear desire for sustainably-made alcohol beverages, and many suppliers have already caught on. One winery in particular is shaking things up with how they upcycle their pomace. After reading an article from the University of Athens Greece discussing the traditional uses of wine pomace, Peggy Furth, one of the founders of WholeVine® Products, was determined to find another use for pressed grapes.
“Over the last decade, in cooperation with experts and researchers across the country at institutions like the Mayo Clinic, UC Davis, UT Knoxville and Iowa State University we researched the best way to capture and harness the unique benefits of pressed wine grapes, and Chardonnay in particular, both for delicious foods and for human health. This culminated in the development of our surprising new superfood — WellVine Coastal Chardonnay Marc — which was first introduced in Vine To Bar chocolate in late 2020,” Scott Forsberg, COO, WholeVine® Products, explains.
Every Vine to Bar chocolate upcycles WellVine™️ Chardonnay Marc into delicious, earth-friendly dark chocolate. After the grapes are pressed, they are gently dried and milled using a proprietary process that results in maximum preservation of taste and nutrition. Typically, everything left of the pressed grapes would be discarded after winemaking, but this process makes for less waste. WellVine is then added to the chocolate during blending with the cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar.
“It actually comprises 15% of the chocolate by weight, which is a substantial amount,” says Forsberg. “One of the surprising things we discovered when formulating Vine To Bar is that WellVine actually helps to decrease bitterness. This effect is dramatic enough that we have been granted a patent on improving the taste of dark chocolate.”
WholeVine® Products is committed to a full cycle of sustainability by ensuring as little waste as possible throughout the winemaking process. Additionally, a portion of the company’s profits go to support charitable organizations, with a focus on children’s charities.
Creating Solutions to the Climate Crisis
Jackson Family Wines is also dedicated to decreasing their carbon footprint. In 2021, the company unveiled its Rooted for Good: Roadmap to 2030 climate action and social impact initiative — the most ambitious climate action in the establishment’s 40-year history.
Rooted for Good is a bold comprehensive set of goals and initiatives designed to lead climate solutions, create positive social impact and support the Jackson Family’s long-term vision for a sustainable future for its wine community. The plan consists of four key focus areas:
- Create Positive Social Impact: Build a workplace where diversity, equity and inclusion thrive, while empowering its employees to foster more resilient communities.
- Climate Action + Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and become climate positive by 2050, without purchasing offsets.
- Land Conservation + Farming: Transition 100% of its estate vineyard properties to regenerative farming practices in the next decade. This also includes protecting and preserving critical wildlife and watershed habitats in and around its properties, cultivating more biodiversity and supporting the ecosystems surrounding its vineyards.
- Smart Water Management: Jackson Family Wines will innovate and adopt smart water management practices in its vineyards and wineries to ensure they continue to conserve water, improve water quality and enhance the local watersheds.
“All the recent consumer research we’ve seen shows that consumers are looking for ways to support companies and brands that share their same values, including sustainability and being eco-conscious,” Sean Carroll, Jackson Family Wines Director of Communications, Social Impact and Environmental Sustainability, explains. “We are proud of our sustainability and climate action leadership and hope that consumers will choose to purchase our wines because they know they’re going to enjoy a bottle of wine that is helping create solutions to the climate crisis, farm responsibly to build soil health and support habitats and surrounding ecosystems, and make a positive impact in our local communities.”
Green is Grand
Converting to solar energy is also a prominent eco-friendly feature that many companies institute. The popular Vermont-based brewery Lawson’s Finest Liquids recently added enough solar panels to power 100% of the energy required to run the facility. In doing so, the business built the largest solar canopy in the state, says newly appointed CEO Adeline Druart.
“Breweries are resource intensive, especially in terms of water and energy,” she explains. “Solar is low-hanging fruit. It’s the right thing to do.”
Upholding an eco-conscious philosophy since first opening in 2008, Lawson’s Finest this past June was B Corp Certified.
“It was a big milestone for the company,” Druart says. “There’s a lot of messaging out there about sustainability, and it’s hard for consumers to tell what’s real and what’s marketing. B Corp Certification is a rigorous assessment. Only 0.02% of the breweries in the country have this certification. It’s a commitment that needs to be throughout the whole business. The assessors look at our governance, our ownership structure, diversity on the board, how employees are treated, how much we give back to the community, how we impact the environment and what’s our carbon footprint.”
At Lawson’s, a company-wide commitment includes shipping waste in the form of spent grains to local farmers for agricultural use. In addition to water and energy conservation efforts, the brewery also operates a large recycling program. “And we look at our suppliers as well, to see whether they’re aligned with our values,” Druart says.
“This is an important business model for the future,” she adds. “We want to be the best in the world and the best for the world. Consumers care more and more about who makes their food and drink. How those companies are inspiring social change, how they treat their employees, and are they taking care of the world or trashing it?”
Ensuring Healthy Agave Ecosystems
Products tied to a specific region tend to bring economic growth and opportunities to local people. However, the surge in tequila’s popularity has led to drastic changes in growing, harvesting, and distilling practices. The once valued and revered roles of artisanal tequileros have been reduced to meet mass-market demand.
To combat these changes, tequila brand Valor is committed to using traditional growing and harvesting practices, led by local experts. The brand collaborates with local communities and partners in Tequila, Mexico to make community-informed investments to improve environmental conditions and foster sustainable growth in local communities.
Currently, Valor is working with ProNatura (an NGO based in Mexico City), the University of Guadalajara and the Public Center of the National Council of Humanities, Sciences, and Technologies at Michoacan College to establish water security in San Pedro de los Landeros, promoting the sustainability and well-being of the community.
“Valor implements sustainable production practices from seed to bottle, allowing agave to completely mature before harvest. Our sustainability and impact plans include providing expert technical assistance and training to farmers and producers, ensuring the cultivation of healthy and thriving agave ecosystems while maintaining economic viability,” says founder Christiane Maertens.
Brewing for Tomorrow
Brewing beer and sustainability go hand in hand, according to Firestone Walker COO Nick Firestone. One of the biggest challenges of any brewer is water.
“It’s one of our 4 primary ingredients, and, being based in California, it is our most precious resource. We have made great strides to improve our water/beer ratio, and I believe we are one of the more water-efficient breweries in the country,” Firestone says.
The brewery also treats all of its effluent water on-site in aerobic ponds and an anaerobic treatment plant to make sure all the outbound water they send back to the city of Paso Robles is as close to potable as possible. The water then undergoes final treatment and is reused directly by the city. “Water efficiency in brewing is a function of investing in highly efficient equipment and smart engineering, yet there are always improvements to be made,” according to Firestone.
“We like to say that sustainability, in part, is about the act of enduring as a business. While our customers rely on us to make beautiful beers, we also rely on our community to provide the resources to do so,” Firestone adds. “Being responsible with those resources is table stakes. It is crucial that we not only continue to create incredible beers, but we also make sure that we are good neighbors.”