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12 October 2023

Welsh Food and Drink Industry Champions Waste Reduction and Circular Economy

Forward-thinking Welsh businesses are implementing innovative strategies, processes, and technologies to minimise waste and lead the way for more climate-conscious practices across the sector.

At the forefront of these efforts are creative approaches that minimise – or eliminate – waste, optimise supply chains and production processes, and a focus on more environmentally conscious packaging solutions.

Leading the way is Ammanford-based Coaltown Coffee, whose project is utilising waste heat from the coffee roasting process to generate usable electricity.

“It is very much an experimental project, and its main objective is to prove the concept and viability of the technology when applied to coffee roasting equipment,” says Gordon James, Technical Director at Coaltown Coffee.

“With input from UWTSD we are now able to establish the electricity generation potential at scale in the most efficient way.”

In addition to waste reduction, businesses are also actively pioneering initiatives that repurpose by-products to transform waste into new products and revenue streams.

Cardiff-based Flowerhorn Brewery started out in 2019 brewing a range of hoppy pale ales, fruity IPA’s, sour beers, and dessert stouts using the best high-quality real ingredients. But when a challenging covid lockdown experience saw their whole chain shut down, Flowerhorn looked for ways to diversify their business.

“We wanted to be less vulnerable in future if restrictions ever return,” says Andrew Traynor of Flowerhorn Brewery. 

Converting a shipping container into a dedicated dog bakery, Flowerhorn diversified their waste-products to create a new product line of dog biscuits, which they are now bringing in house.

“We launched the business in March 2023, and showcased our dog biscuits at Brew LDN beer festival in May. 2023,” adds Andrew.

“We’re also looking to introduce a variation on the pale ale dog biscuits, offering a stout dog biscuit so pets have more variety.”

Another Welsh business repurposing waste for the good of our pets is North Wales-based SGS Speciality Foods, who are transforming waste streams from fish processing and bycatch into nutritious dog treats.

Blending omega 3 and collagen from waste and by-catch with herbs that add nutritional benefits for pets, SGS are turning waste into valuable new products and revenue streams.

“We are launching with three different herbs, as three variants of the product,” says Gareth Hockridge of SGS Speciality Foods. “We are working with Herbal Remedies for Animals as we wanted to keep things as natural as possible. The packaging has been designed and signed off, so we’re ready to launch the product range. Without the [Welsh] partners we couldn’t have done it.”

As well as reimagining waste materials, these businesses are also demonstrating that sustainability can also drive more sustainable processes.

Through collaborations with local businesses, Crwst have made a 67% reduction on food waste, including offloading 15–20kgs of roasted coffee grounds into a composting system.

“We’ve also teamed up with a local farmer who takes bread waste to supplement his animal feed,” says Rhodri Jones of Crwst. “We’ve reduced electricity consumption and changed a lot of our packaging to make it more sustainable. [We have also] offset a total of 17.68 tonnes of CO2 emissions.”

Welsh food and drink businesses are also forging collaborations across the supply chain to drive circular economy practices – partnering with local farmers, supplies, and even consumers to ensure a closed-loop system where recourses are used efficiently.

Furthermore, these businesses are investing in research and development to explore and implement sustainable solutions in Wales.

Pembrokeshire-based Puffin Produce grow and supply fresh produce to retailers across Wales including Tesco, M&S, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Co-Op, and Waitrose. Their Root Zero project is driving sustainability awareness while decarbonising the supply chain.

“The Root Zero brand has seen significant growth, with sales increasing by 300%,” says Matthew Thomas of Puffin Produce. “We’re also in the process of launching the first landscape enterprise network in Wales, which means organisations operating in that specific landscape come together to collaboratively work on improving and restoring the landscape.”

In addition, Puffin Produce are also using eco labelling to keep buyers informed of the carbon footprint of their produce.

Welsh Government is also playing a vital role in supporting these efforts. Their Decarbonisation and Covid Recovery Fund has provided grants and resources that are enabling these businesses to embrace the circular economy, build more robust, environmentally conscious supply chains, and drive their sustainability initiatives.

Participating businesses are now proving that sustainable practices not only benefit the environment but also contribute to long-term business success. By tacking waste, embracing B Corp principles, and investing in innovation, these businesses are not only reducing their carbon footprint but are also helping to revive Wales’s food and drink sector, while inspiring the industry – and its consumers – to adopt more sustainable practices, too.

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