Labelled as the ‘Green Generation’, a study by Nielsen has revealed that three out of four millennials – ages 22-37 – are willing to spend more on sustainable products. But it’s not just the younger generations who care about the impact their purchasing decisions have on the environment - the same study highlights the majority of Baby Boomers are also willing to pay extra, and this environmentally aware consumer group is growing year on year.
Some things that potential customers look for when making ethical purchasing decisions are a business’s environmental friendliness and commitment to social values, as well as whether they are leveraging ingredients that are local, natural and organic.
Improving the sustainability of your business will increase your appeal to consumers looking to make ethical purchasing choices, without affecting your existing customer base.
Let’s explore some ways you can up the sustainability game at your establishment. One of the easiest and most cost effective adjustments you can make is to your beverage menu.
Here are 5 simple ways you can get started:
1. Use natural, sustainable ingredients
Instead of offering big brand sodas or juices, it’s easy to make interesting and cost-effective versions in house with local fruit or tea infusions. It’s also a sustainable and healthier way to create flavoured drinks, as you can control the sugar content and ensure no artificial additives.
Cold brew tea infusions pair very well with fruits. The slightly sour taste of berries match well with green tea and peppermint tea, while sweet aromatic chamomile tea mixes well with lemons, apples, mangoes, and oranges.
Lipton Teas are also Rainforest Alliance Certified™, which means that the teas are grown and harvested via sustainable practices.
2. Reduce waste
A sustainable beverage should ideally be made by using every part of an ingredient, and reducing food waste.
If your establishment has a kitchen, using food ‘scraps’ is an excellent way to improve your carbon footprint - but also decrease your food cost. Ginger peels, coriander stalks, and the tough parts of lemongrass are often thrown away due to their texture, although they still contain all the flavour. Infuse these into water for cocktail bases, or reduce them down with sugar to a syrup to create natural cordials.
Another option is to leverage high quality, durable ingredients that can be easily proportioned based on need, avoiding waste of fresh, easily perishable produce.
3. Leverage reusable materials
Plastics have a bad reputation, and for good reason. They are one of the primary pollutants of the sea, which causes a lot of harm to marine life. When plastic breaks down, it is unable to biodegrade completely - leading to one of the most pressing environmental crises of our time: microplastics. These tiny plastic fragments make their way into our food, drinking water, and more.
The European Union is moving towards a complete ban on single-use plastics, and many establishments around the world are following suit. One current trend is the “anti-straw movement” which has consumers veering away from plastic straws, instead opting for bamboo or metal reusable versions.
Restaurants and bars consume a lot of plastic, but converting to reusable materials will not only contribute greatly to the environment, but will also reduce consumable costs.
If takeaway options are required, opt for biodegradable cups such as those made with corn plastics. These break down completely and cause little environmental impact.
4. Source locally or regionally when possible
Consumers are increasingly interested in the ‘food miles’ ingredients have travelled from site of production to end point of consumption. This local eating movement has been growing since the 1990’s, when the globalised food system saw fresh food ingredients shipped all around the world every day.
The environmental impact and contribution to global warming of this increased fossil fuel consumption led many to seek out ingredients produced closer to their homes.
Local sourcing of ingredients not only means you will likely receive fresher produce, but can help you to curate an exciting and unique menu rooted in local food culture. Take advantage of exciting fresh ingredients grown in farms located near you.
5. Make everything in house
Another way to reduce the plastics and packaging consumed by your business, making all components of your beverage menu in house has the added impact of reducing food costs by cutting out purchases of pricey partially prepared products.
Syrups and juices are easy to make, but are usually quite expensive to buy prepared. While it may take a little more labour, customers are usually willing to pay a premium for drinks made with unique and housemade ingredients.
Instead of buying bottled drinks, tea is an excellent way to add a variety of flavours. Bartenders around the world are utilising jasmine teas to add floral notes to cocktails; or peppermint tea to add a cooling touch to fruity punch.
Infusing sustainable practices to your beverage menu is not just a great way to start attracting a new client base, but it’s a great way to improve the bottom line of your business.