On a roll: The Kiwi brewery making beer out of unwanted bread

A Kiwi craft beer brewery is doing its best to tackle food waste – one sip at a time.

More than 50 breweries will come together for the Auckland Craft Beer and Food Festival, presented by SkyCity, at Spark Arena on Saturday.

Among them is Citizen whose products are made using surplus edible food.

That includes using a staggering 140,000 slices of bread since its launch last year; with each can featuring the fermentable starches from a single slice of bread.

Those loaves of bread would otherwise have been sent to a landfill.

“What we are trying to do is rather than focus on the problem, we are trying to create a movement and a solution that people can get behind,” Citizen co-founder Donald Shepherd told the Herald.

“Consumers want to act and be more sustainable. By being able to buy a can of beer, you can actually rescue a slice of bread. That is really simple.

“We are about creating a positive movement around change.”

As well as the unwanted slices of bread being given a second life, the plastic bags they come in and their tags are also being “upcycled” into fence posts by Future Post.

A study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations last year said 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food were wasted around the globe. That is the equivalent of a third of the world’s food production.

In 2018 it was reported that food wastage sent to landfills in New Zealand equated to 122,500 tonnes; an estimated $872 million in products.

“It is just crazy as a nation that we are in this situation,” Shepherd said.

“I am a Kiwi-born boy, have grown up on a dairy farm and have been involved in food production ever since. I went overseas and discovered the problem abroad and then came back to see the problem is here as well.

“Consumers now are becoming much more aware and engaged of not what you buy, but the story behind it of how it is produced, where it is produced and the impacts that that production is having on local and abroad conditions.

“That is exciting because it will put pressure on us all about our end-to-end process; taking ownership not just in the best cost-effective way but the best way for the planet, the people and to make a good product.”

Citizen is just the third New Zealand company to join the international Upcycled Food Association; a non-profit organisation focused on reducing food waste.

Making beer out of bread isn’t the only Citizen product made from food products which would be set to head to a landfill or compost heap.

In April it will launch Citizen Piquette, which is a wine made out of the skins of grapes which had earlier been used for producing wine.

The beverage is currently fermenting on Waiheke Island. It contains lower alcohol, calorie and sugar levels than other wine products.

“It is all about giving a second life,” Shepherd said. “We are launching in a couple of weeks’, taking grape skin that has made wine, rehydrating them, and refermenting them and repressing them and creating a really lovely wine that happens to be 5 to 6 per cent [alcohol], low calorie and lightly fizzed.

“We think it is a great use of resources … getting the most out of that grape skin before it goes into compost.”

Fellow Citizen co-founder chef Ben Bayly is also working on a range of sauces and condiments from upcycled fruit and vegetables.

Shepherd said the upcoming Auckland Craft Beer and Food Festival was an exciting time for craft beer lovers, and for a new company such as his one.

Citizen has only been going for nine months. And as well as highlighting the company’s products to craft beer drinkers, he said he and other company bosses were looking forward to the chance to rub shoulders with other producers.

“We share beer, we share taps and learn from each other. The craft beer community is really friendly and warm,” he said.

“As soon as the call came out that they were looking at creating the biggest beer garden in Auckland we immediately said, ‘Yes please, we would love to be a part of that’.

“They [organisers] have got this measure that it is not just about serving beer, it is about meeting the people behind the product, having great experiences and the food part of it is exciting as well.”

Craft beer’s popularity in New Zealand has soared in recent years.

The volumes drunk here between 2014-19 almost trebled, according to Stats NZ.

When asked why craft beer was becoming such a popular product amongst New Zealand drinkers, Shepherd responded: “People understand that beer isn’t just beer.

“We have been a lager drinking nation. We have had some really great and really affordable beer for many generations. But like the wine industry, and the food industry, it has really evolved. The palate has become more complex, people’s understanding and desire to try different things is growing.”

Shepherd said he was “proud” to be part of the independent New Zealand-made craft beer sector.

And after a succession of entertainment events have been cancelled around New Zealand during the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Shepherd said the festival offered another reason to celebrate.

“There is a sense that we feel very lucky and we are very privileged to be in the position that we are in,” he said.

“To be able to come together and celebrate, and not be wearing masks and to get out at all, is pretty sensational.”

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