Toast Ale started as a ‘side hustle’. When it comes to Rob Wilson, he’s got nothing to hide. In this weeks episode, Rob chats to us not only about his journey and successful brewing business that uses bread that would otherwise go to waste… Did you know that 44% of the bread we eat goes to waste? But he also tells us, in detail, about the rocky road it took to get there. A man with a mission, and the kindest of hearts, to have brewed a billion pieces of surplus bread by 2035.
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:18 Meeting Rob, setting the scene in Central London
00:03:44 What is Toast? An introduction
- 00:03:55 “We’re on a mission to prove the alternative to food waste is freaking delicious and pint sized, so we brew our planet saving beer from yesterday’s bread…”
00:05:16 The connection between bread and beer has been around for a long time
- 00:06:30 “One of those common sense things that we’ve really forgotten about, so we are trying to bring that craft back whilst the craft beer industry is, thankfully, booming.”
00:08:38 What type of bread needs to be used for the process of making it into beer?
- 00:08:53 “The reality is that we are using commercial surplus bread, typically white/brown/wholemeal sliced bread, and that’s perfect for brewing.”
- 00:10:25 “The end slice, the heel slice of bread, surplus to requirements – never ends up on your pre-packed sandwich in a coffee shop or a supermarket. And all of those end slices of which there are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions every day, are going to waste.”
00:11:00 44% of bread is wasted
- 00:12:06 “People seem to, it just resonates, people get it! Even if they have no idea how beer is brewed or bread is baked, people understand this connection. There seems to be this innate understanding that beer is liquid bread.”
- 00:12:48 “Then we’ve kind of got these three sort of, cuddly principles, behind the beer and ultimately that’s: eliminating commercial bread waste, trying to raise awareness about food waste then pouring all our profits into environmental charities.”
00:14:20 Who is the charity ‘Feedback’, what do they do?
00:18:10 Monocultures and food cultures – why don’t we eat what we’ve been given?
- 00:19:24 “I grew up with my dad as a fruit and vegetable importer. Many fruits that he was importing from all over the world and selling to the retail industry in the UK, so from a very young age I had an insight into this big industry when I would go and see him at work in the warehouses, I would see a lot of waste…”
00:20:41 The selection of beers and how it started
- 00:21:21 “We launched with a pale ale, the pale ale has always been our flagship.”
- 00:23:00 “For us I guess our target audience is trying to reach a relatively mainstream consumer, trying to transition someone who might be more familiar with the big lager brands to kind of come across, drink our lager packed with more flavour and impact.”
00:23:15 The challenge around traditional perceptions of the charity section and quality
- 00:24:58 “And then he tasted it, and in a very ‘Jamie Oliver Way’ said it was blooming delicious. And that for us and kind of that moment was an amazing kudos to realise we were onto something that had to lead with quality.”
- 00:25:59 “You’re never going to build a business on a sob story.”
- 00:27:15 “We’re probably not quite as competitive as other beer companies might be. We don’t offer big commission based bonuses or anything like that, we want to be very authentic about the fact that the profits we are making will go to charity and so, yeah it’s got to stack up as a commercial success.”
00:27:53 Social responsibility and entrepreneurship – does Rob think there’s change?
- 00:29:11 “I think at the moment we are at this exciting interconnect between the two, where we, very authentically, wanted to build a mission driven business and could see that the consumer demand was there so we carried on.”
- 00:31:20 “We call them a barstool activist – if you go into a bar and you see a product that might be a big global brand, and you can see another one that is creating impact, and they’re at the same sort of price, and they’re both available to you – of course you’re going to choose that one.”
- 00:34:04 “Our vision one day is to see every beer in the entire world brewed with 5% surplus bread, 95% barely. There is no way whatsoever you’d be able to tell the difference in Heineken, let’s say, if surplus bread replaces that 5% of Barley.”
00:36:36 A ‘Mega-Moon’ across Africa
- 00:39:14 “We were both fed up with the fact that so much of the perception of Africa was that it’s a continent full of war, disease, famine and corruption. And whilst a lot of those things do exist, there is a very different side to an incredible continent where there are incredible solutions to those problems…”
00:40:59 Ashoker: helping social entrepreneurs, running the UK side
- 00:42:03 The man who built his social enterprise on rats that detect land mines!
00:45:16 Starting as a ‘side hustle’, then turning into Toast Ale into a full business
- 00:47:24 “We’re lucky enough to now have external investors in toast.”
- 00:49:33 Crowd funding & cash flow
- 00:50:04 “One of our key investors is National Geographic. Really amazing to have them on board as an investor.”
00:50:43 Brewing and working partnerships
- 00:52:33 “As a group of environmentalists, as an environmental business, we do realise there is a certain challenge in trying to tackle environmental issues with a consumer good, when consumerism is pretty much the route cause…”
00:56:58 The struggles of environmental decisions
01:01:14 It’s easier to market your product when you have an authentic story, and Rob’s first customers
- 01:06:46 “We want people to understand then when they’re looking and it says Toast, and its planet saving and we’re celebrating change – that they understand that there is this impact that sits behind the product.”
01:11:22 Looking overseas and wanting to go global
- 01:12:14 “We launched in Iceland – not the biggest market in the world!”
- 01:13:18 “Of all the products around the world, beer is definitely not one of them. It is such a ridiculous product to ship around the world, it’s so heavy.”
01:15:28 Not making any money… The commercial struggles Toast Ale face in America
01:22:37 Was it hard to get the B-Corp Accreditation?
01:23:10 The impact of Toast Ale
- 01:23:23 “We’ve now brewed over one million slices of bread that would have otherwise gone to waste, nearly 2 million now.”
01:25:15 The reputation hospitality has for working too hard and Toast’s transparency
- 01:26:09 “The profit and the planet side, I think we have really nailed it along the way. The people side – we’ve made really bad mistakes along the way.”
01:32:56 Giving shares of the business to employees – is it complicated?
01:33:26 Challenges and learning curves throughout Toast Ale
01:36:22 Where to go to find out more about Rob and Toast Ale’s story
01:38:24 Marks final thoughts and sign off
If you’d like to learn more about Rob, Toast Ale and it’s mission to create a more sustainable world in Hospitality, check out their website and social channels below… Or, listen to the full episode here.