Recycled food and beverage business Citizen, co-founded by restaurateur Ben Bayly, is hoping its collective sustainability model will enable it to grow into a global operation.
Citizen takes bread sold in the supermarket close to its expiry and uses it as an ingredient, extracting the starch and replacing malt to make its namesake beer. From the brewing process, leftover bread-brew mash is repurposed again, turned into spent-grain flour to make its bread.
Co-founder Donald Shepherd, currently the general manager of marketing of Fisher & Paykel Appliances, told the Herald that Citizen was a collective that partnered with businesses in different fields to repurpose byproducts, to reduce food waste.
It works with Sawmill Brewery, Wild Wheat, Goodman Fielder and the FoodBowl and was co-founded by Shepherd, Mike Sutherland and Ben Bayly, who holds a 4 per cent stake in the company.
Shepherd describes the operation as a "breads to beer to bread process", designed to repurpose surplus food to stop it from going to landfill. It partners with other businesses to make the products from recycled ingredients.
Citizen began selling its pilsner and pale ale beers in upmarket supermarket Farro Fresh in July and is gearing up to launch into Foodstuffs stores from the middle of August. Its sourdough bread is currently sold at Wild Wheat stores.
Shepherd said the Foodstuffs deal - to be sold in select New World, Pak'nSave, Four Square and Liquorland stores - was "a game-changer" and would allow the small operation to scale up its production. It hopes to be brewing 5000 litres of beer three to four times per month in time for summer.
The idea for Citizen came about in October over a beer and conversation between Shepherd and Sutherland of Matakana-based Sawmill Brewery.
"Citizen is a collective fundamentally and at its core it is about rescuing and reworking edible food surpluses and stopping them from going to waste ... and then we partner with experts that share our values," Shepherd told the Herald.
"It's all done in collaboration, our beer cans have the Citizen logo, our bread bags have the Wild Wheat logo on, so we'll always represent the partners because we think it is really important to call out that these people are involved in it."
Ben Bayly sells Citizen beer at his Auckland restaurant The Grounds and it will be on tap at Ahi, his newest restaurant in Commercial Bay once it opens later this month.
"While we're going bread into beer into bread right now, what we're also looking at as an organisation is what else can we do with the spent grain that we have created from our brewing and what that can go into; there are more products on the way."
Shepherd was tight-lipped on what other products were in the pipeline.
"We started with bread because it is New Zealand's most wasted [product], and the second most wasted product is vegetables so we're working on ideas around that," Shepherd said. Ben Bayly will work with Shepherd to create ways to repurpose vegetables.
"It's about finding pockets of opportunity where there is waste."
Citizen was originally set to put its beer into its first pubs and bars the week Covid-19 hit, it had kegs ready to go but pivoted quickly to a retail grocery strategy on the back of uncertainty around when bars would reopen after lockdown.
Citizen sold what it had anticipated would be five months' worth of stock in its first two weeks of being in Farro Fresh.
Shepherd returned to New Zealand 18 months ago after spending 16 years in Britain, where he was involved in the area of food waste. He describes Citizen as his "passion project", he is yet to work on it fulltime.
So far, $350,000 had been invested to start the business, including capital from third-party investors. The company is looking to raise more funds to support its growth plans.
"We want Citizen to be a multi-category, multi-product, not just New Zealand, organisation - we see it growing not only in New Zealand but as an export opportunity in terms of taking produce that has been rescued and reworked and taking it across to locations such as Australia and Asia - we see huge potential."
Icehouse Ventures holds a 3 per cent stake in the company.