Beer is a big business. From multi-million dollar companies to tiny craft breweries, no matter what you’re into you’ll be able to find a beer with the taste (and ethos) that suits you.
One brand that is standing out from the rest is TOAST Ale. The UK-based company is passionate about eradicating food waste. As a result, they brew their beer with fresh surplus bread and give 100% of their profits to charity.
We caught up with Louisa Ziane, Chief Brand Officer at TOAST Ale to find out more about the company’s journey to date.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The origin of beer goes back to Babylonian times when it was produced with fermented bread. We’re bringing back an old tradition and using it to tackle some of the 900,000 tonnes of bread wasted in the UK every year. Our founder, Tristram Stuart, is a campaigner on food waste and was inspired by the Brussels Beer Project, who brew their Babylone beer with local surplus bakery bread. We’re scaling the idea, using beer as a brilliantly fun way of tackling a global problem.
Why do you think your company has been successful?
We are a business driven by our social purpose but we are foremost focused on creating a quality product – a great-tasting beer, beautifully packaged. We’re unique as we are the only beer directly tackling a global problem whilst using all our profits to change the underlying drivers of the problem. That appeals to people who are aligned with our mission. We couldn’t build a business on our mission if the product wasn’t excellent and a good beer appeals to everyone.
What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
We are the first and only UK beer company to become a registered B Corporation. We’re massively proud to join a community of leaders using business as a force for good.
The B Corp certification is for business what Fair Trade is to coffee – a signal of a more sustainable way of doing business. There are more than 2,400 Certified B Corps in over 130 industries and 50 countries with 1 unifying goal – to redefine success in business. They include large brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Ella’s Kitchen and many smaller social enterprises like Divine Chocolate and now Toast too!
What’s been the biggest challenge?
We’re a young business, having only launched in January 2016. Everyone wears many hats and we’re learning together every day. For example, inventory management is incredibly difficult given the lead times involved in brewing and distribution. It’s important not to brew too much to ensure our customers are drinking our beer at its freshest, but the consequences of running out of stock and not being able to fulfil a large order could be serious. We’ve made some mistakes, but have been quick to learn from them.
What’s your team structure like?
Our team has recently grown in size. In December 2017 we were four people in the UK and one in the US. Now we’re 15 and 5 respectively. We have a global team that includes our CEO, brand director, finance/HR director, brewer and international growth director, and local teams that manage their businesses, including production, logistics, sales and marketing.
What traits do you look for in new hires?
Passion for our mission, a positive outlook, an ability to take the initiative and get things done and a love of beer.
What advice would you give to someone applying for a job at a startup?
If you’re applying to a start-up, be prepared to get stuck in with anything and everything. In the early years, your work is likely to be incredibly varied and may not reflect your job description. Be open to the opportunities for personal development that brings.
How do you measure success?
We want to convert 1 billion slices of surplus bread into delicious beer. We measure the amount of bread used in every brew and publish the total amount on our website.
How can companies nurture a more diverse team?
Having a diverse team is really important to us. We want to offer equal opportunities as a responsible employer and we want our team to reflect the diversity of our customers. We’ve achieved gender diversity, partly through progressive company policies that offer flexible and part-time working options. However, diversity starts in the recruitment process and we’ve struggled to attract candidates from a diverse ethnic and economic background.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your business?
Our sustainability ethos runs through everything we do, beyond our circular economy business model use of surplus bread and our charitable-giving. For example, we recently closed an investment round to raise growth funds for the business. We’ve called it Equity For Good because our investors commit to reinvest any net capital gains they may eventually make in environmentally-focused social enterprises, thereby growing social impact businesses. And of course, they’ll never collect dividend because all our distributable profits are donated to charity.
What does the future hold for your company?
We’re continuing to build brand awareness in our existing markets and have huge ambitions for international growth. We’re planning to be in 30 countries by the end of 2020.
Read more about social enterprises here.