If you want to survive in the bar industry, there’s nowhere else to go but green, said Paulo Figueiredo, Ketel One’s Brand Ambassador and sustainability expert, on Oct. 7 while attending the World’s Best Bartender Competition in Berlin.
“It’s the direction … the industry is going. Not just bars, [but] restaurants as well are finding better ingredients for a better, more sustainable and eco-friendly drink or cocktail,” said Figueiredo.
Bars have earned a reputation for being extremely wasteful, and with greater consumer awareness, the industry is eyeing opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint without sacrificing the bottom line.
“You go to certain cities like San Francisco or London or Hong Kong, wherever you go, there is a movement where people say, ‘What is this bar doing?’ If you’re still remaining in your 80s, 90s sort of philosophy, people will not go there,” said Figueiredo.
From the infamous plastic straws and cups to fruit and water waste, the cocktail culture is changing—becoming more thoughtful about ingredients, the environment, and the bars themselves.
Recycled bar tops, tables, and chairs are starting to pop up in bars across the globe. Plants and all sorts of herbs are grown right on the walls of some bars to improve air quality and infuse natural soda water. Citrus peels used to garnish cocktails are making their way into syrups, and ice machines are being retired, never to return.
Industry experts around the world are starting to collaborate, sharing ideas to be more sustainable and technology that helps increase profits at the same time.
“It’s always important that sustainability and more product quality and efficiency come out of the same hand,” said Johann Bödecker, CEO and founder of Pentatonic, a company that makes products from waste and recycled materials.
“As soon as the business leaders identify this as an opportunity where you can save costs and create a more premium, more interesting product at the same time for your consumer, … as soon as that has been spearheaded by companies like Nike, to make performance products but in an increasingly sustainable way, I think lots of business leaders [will commit] themselves,” he said.
A panel of experts who predict the next year’s trends in the cocktail industry agreed that the world needs more action in sustainability measures. They added that major initiatives can often start with small steps that collectively amount to big changes.
Bödecker said that is exactly what is happening in the world today. Social media, for example, has become a platform for millions of like-minded, environmentally conscious bartenders, owners, and enthusiasts to share creative, cost-reducing, green ideas.
Studies show that customers are caring more about whether their favorite establishments take a sustainable approach to their business.
If the bar industry continues its effort to clean up in a collective way, the shift could very well gain momentum, and a new, greener cocktail era could be just around the corner.