Behind the B – Bringing consciousness to drinking
This month, we have teamed up with our friends and B Corp colleagues from Stroud Brewery to explore the changing consumer trends in conscious drinking and healthy social connection. In this written conversation, Greg Pilley (MD of Stroud Brewery) and Genevieve Boast (Sustainability & Story @ Equinox Kombucha) explore some of the key trends in ethical […]
This month, we have teamed up with our friends and B Corp colleagues from Stroud Brewery to explore the changing consumer trends in conscious drinking and healthy social connection.
In this written conversation, Greg Pilley (MD of Stroud Brewery) and Genevieve Boast (Sustainability & Story @ Equinox Kombucha) explore some of the key trends in ethical drinking and how they are engaging with these as B Corps.
The impact of the pandemic
“Greg, the last few years have brought lots of uncertainty to communities across the UK and the world. With the pandemic restrictions, it seems to me that our human need for regular social connection and for meaningful social relationships has become more important than ever before. How have you seen this evolve given that Stroud owns a bar that could be seen as a hub for real human connections!”
“The pandemic, and measures to manage it have hit hospitality the hardest – exactly because these are the places that people meet, mix and share.
As a B Corp Brewery, with sustainability steering our business development, we have always prioritised our on-trade sales. The pubs and bars we deliver to directly, just a short distance away, with beer served from casks and kegs which are constantly recycled, represent low drink miles, almost zero packaging and great social benefit.
It is the importance of our social life that the pandemic has served to emphasise, in their absence, and also in our shared challenges. This has re-enforced for us the crucial role that pubs and hospitality have as loci of community, where community connections are made through conversation and shared endeavours.
We increasingly value time with family and friends. And for our sustainable future we recognise the need to reduce our consumption, to detach our identities from the things we buy and own to the things we say and do with others – our relationships. I believe we will see a proliferation of new social venues. Of course the traditional pub is here to stay, but it’s clear there is a need for inclusive community spaces.”
“I agree. We have seen a massive uplift in people buying our Kombucha over the last 12-18 months as a low-no alcohol alternative drink that is suited to social occasions and celebrations. And there has definitely been a cause for celebrations as we have started to re-open in the UK!
We have also noticed that consumers are now actively seeking brands who really live their sustainable values, (such as organic, B Corp, locally sourced etc) to support their purchasing decisions. We are getting more engagement from people asking intelligent questions about our packaging, our ingredients and our production methods than ever before.
It’s almost like lockdowns have given people the space to consider some of these important sustainability issues and make some new decisions about who they buy from and why,”.
“The pandemic has changed the way people shop. People are looking for quality, provenance and the right values. When the supermarket shelves were empty, people questioned why, and where is their food coming from, connecting them again with small businesses and usually ordering from them online.”
The changing consumer landscape
“Consumer behaviour and drinking trends in the UK are definitely transforming. Social and environmental pressures mean that traditional drinks such as fresh juices and high sugar beverages are no longer the natural first choice of consumers. In September 2020 we conducted a piece of consumer research using a sample of 2000 UK customers to understand how their purchasing behaviour had changed over the pandemic.
- Whilst over 50% of people still were focussed on fruit juices and alcohol as primary drinks products, 37% were interested in healthy soft drinks and a further 27% in healthy mixers
- 41% of the participants considered their health and wellbeing to be an essential part of their considerations when purchasing
- 39% of people were trying to shop and eat more healthily
This demonstrated how much potential there is currently to reach interested consumers looking for healthier alternatives to traditional beverages and the shift in perception around traditional drinking habits that has occurred over the pandemic.”
“At Stroud Brewery, our taproom does have a grand bar, and it may seem like an altar to beer, however it is a serving space for the great diversity of our customers’ preferences. and we pride ourselves as a community resource.
We have an organic and /or local sourcing policy and have a fantastic range of teas, coffees, soft drinks and increasingly popular, kombucha, which with its sparkling fresh acidity is an uncompromising and health giving alternative to a glass of wine or cider.”
The true cost of quality, ethical products
“We are a dedicated organic brewery. We believe the organic standards are the best basis for a high quality product that doest least harm to the environment. Organic farms do not use artificial fertiliser or pesticides, and have the highest levels of biodiversity on the farm compared with any other farming practice.
This comes at a cost. Or rather organic products are not “subsidised” by external hidden costs associated with their production such as loss of insect life, mineral and soil depletion, the cost of cleaning nitrate and phosphate of our waterways by water companies which costs millions and is ultimately paid by us in our water bills.
So there are costs, they are not directly built into the product, but we end up paying for them later, but the producers benefit from lower costs and higher margins.
If we want to change the way we live in our world, then the most powerful thing we can do is spend our money with conscious businesses doing their best to do good.”
“This is such an interesting topic given the current rate of inflation. The true cost of being a B Corp is hard to quantify but essential if we are to educate consumers on the benefits of ethical, organic, products. We are passionate about creating healthy, living, organic kombucha as every day, delicious alternatives to traditional drinks. We craft brew authentic, living kombucha the traditional way which means that all our drinks contain living, health-promoting bacterial cultures, and organic acids that help to support a healthy gut and a healthier lifestyle.
All of this however does contribute to the complexity of our production processes, and the overall cost of our organic ingredients. This is an interesting message to communicate to people right now, especially when we are asking them to try our drinks over cheaper, less sustainable alternatives.”
Behind and beyond B Corp
“How do we know how well a business is performing in its responsibility to people and planet? In a world of greenwashing it is easy to make claims that exceed your actual impact. Planet saving, earth conscious, regenerative sound great but they are unquantifiable.
This month the B Corps Behind the B campaign aims to bring back that trust. B Corps and organic have well defined standards and rigorous assessment. The organic standard is enshrined in law.
Organic standards are largely environmental and welfare standards whereas B Corps is more holistic encompassing social and corporate responsibilities, with an emphasis on continuous improvement. It’s inspiring, it’s human nature to want to do better and as a B Corps movement a vision for best practice is rapidly unfolding.”
“Totally. When we began our B Corp journey, we decided to utilise the BIA framework as the foundation for really living sustainable values inside our organisation and outside in our products and social / environmental impact. We are fond of saying we aspire to be both ‘thought and deed leaders’ which is easier said than done.
These times of massive transition that we find ourselves living through are challenging us at every level to walk our talk and come together in partnership with other like-minded and like-hearted brands to ask the difficult questions and find solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems together. For me this is the power of B Corp. The fastest growing sustainable business community on the planet that is unafraid to challenge the status quo and seek new ways of having a positive impact on people, planet and prosperity for all.”
“Although exciting it is more work, it asks you to step away from the day to day to consider things differently, and that comes at a commercial cost, and for a small business in the hospitality world that is a challenge, but it is a challenge that our drinkers support us for, as well as drinking a great tasting beer – Change is Brewing!”