Since 2020 began, there have been dire warnings of climate change. Earth recorded its hottest January in history while bushfires raged across Australia. As the climate crisis accelerates, various industries have taken positive actions for the environment. This includes what is considered to be one of the most wasteful industries on the planet – the F&B sector.
In Singapore, local F&B players have joined forces to form the F&B Sustainability Council, spearheaded by Mexican restaurant and bar group, The Loco Group. Recognising that making an impact can only be done if businesses work together, the council brings local F&B companies together for collective action. It is the first such organisation in Singapore geared towards sharing knowledge and finding solutions to combat waste in the industry.
Members of the council include established hospitality and lifestyle companies The Lo & Behold Group, Spa Esprit Group and Grand Hyatt Singapore; emerging restaurant and bar operators The Cicheti Group, Grain Traders, Gastro Wine and The Providore; as well premium beverage distributors Proof & Company, Trouble Brewing and The Better Food Distribution Co.
Every quarter, members get together for a roundtable session, the first of which took place on Jan 31. What emerged was an enlightening discussion that answered important questions such as: How are Singapore F&B players dealing with food waste? What sort of sustainability practices have already been put in place? What else does the industry need to do?
CNA Luxury rounds up the highlights that emerged from the roundtable session.
MEMBERS TO LOBBY FOR COLLECTIVE FOOD WASTE PROCESSING
The issue of food waste is a mounting problem in the F&B industry. According to the National Environmental Agency (NEA), food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of total waste generated in Singapore, but only 17 per cent is recycled.
At the roundtable session, this was a major concern echoed by members of the council. Although a government grant exists for F&B players to purchase a food waste generator, the amount of food waste produced by each member – even large groups such as The Lo & Behold Group and Spa Esprit Group – is not sufficient at present to meet minimum eligibility for the grant.
Grand Hyatt Singapore’s solution to the problem is to recycle food waste through a generator that converts it into pathogen-free organic fertilisers. However, although the food waste generator owned by the hotel is capable of recycling 1,000kg, it is currently under-utilised, with the hotel processing only 800kg. There is room for more food waste to be recycled, but Grand Hyatt is limited by a government grant that allows only its own food to be processed.
To tackle this problem, the idea to pool together food waste for a central generator was raised at the session. This way, members would be able to collectively meet the minimum eligibility for the grant.
Andrew Ing, Chief Operating Officer of The Lo & Behold Group, will lead a small working group to draft an open letter to government bodies to get collective funding for the food waste generator.
“Across The Lo & Behold group, we continue to relook ways to optimise waste management – measures we can take to reduce the amount of waste generated and initiatives we can adopt to be more proactive,” said Ing. “Within the council, we share ideas and develop strategies to navigate these challenges, and in time, hope to approach government agencies to help the industry with these sustainability solutions and proposals."
“Across The Lo & Behold group, we continue to relook ways to optimise waste management – measures we can take to reduce the amount of waste generated and initiatives we can adopt to be more proactive.” – Andrew Ing
WORKING TOWARDS DESTIGMATISING “UGLY FOOD”
Another solution to the food waste problem raised by members was the de-stigmatising of “ugly food”, or imperfect foods that are tossed out simply because they do not look pretty on the plate.
Cynthia Sayuri, Co-Founder of Selva Foods, shared her personal experience of witnessing avocado and oranges being thrown out just because they are not of an approved size or shape. To combat this, Selva has since created recipes that would allow them to incorporate cosmetically filtered fruits into their products.
For 2020, The Cicheti Group, which operates Italian establishments Bar Cicheti and Cicheti Caffe, hopes to challenge the stigma of ugly food through zero waste events and menu refreshes throughout the year.
“This year is the year we really want to put our foot down and be part of the solution when it comes to the industry's battle with waste. De-stigmatising the idea of ugly food is high on our list, but it boils down to awareness,” said Liling Ong, Director of The Cicheti Group.
Just last week, the group held a four-hands dinner with private dining chef Lee Yum Hwa, aka Ben Fatto 95, which allowed diners to witness how ingredients could be cross-utilised throughout the menu.
“We plan to continue the conversation through our upcoming menu updates, and in the way we give back – through special desserts that utilise the odds and ends of ingredients found in our kitchens, to raising funds for worthy causes,” Ong added.
“This year is the year we really want to put our foot down and be part of the solution when it comes to the industry's battle with waste. De-stigmatising the idea of ugly food is high on our list.” – Liling Ong
ELIMINATING GLASS PACKAGING WASTE
Fears of environmental damage has sparked a global crackdown on plastic and at the roundtable session, F&B players demonstrated a commitment to eliminate plastic use. But while single-use plastic tends to get a bad rap from environmentalists, the harmful effects of single-use glass are lesser known.
Although glass is recyclable, more often than not, they usually end up in landfills. This is something spirits distributor Proof & Company hopes to change. The company has developed ecoSPIRITS, the world’s first low-carbon, low-waste spirits distribution technology. Instead of glass bottles, spirits can now be packaged in returnable, 4.5 litre ecoTOTES for distribution.
“Every year the world consumes an astonishing 40 billion glass bottles of spirits, with the vast majority ending up in landfills as single use glass waste. ecoSPIRITS helps bars, restaurants and hotels eliminate nearly all the glass and packaging waste in their spirits supply chain, reducing carbon footprint by a pretty cool 30g of emissions per cocktail,” shared Paul Gabie, CEO of Proof & Company. “Working together, we are eliminating single use glass waste one tasty gin and tonic at a time.”
“Every year the world consumes an astonishing 40 billion glass bottles of spirits, with the vast majority ending up in landfills as single use glass waste.” – Paul Gabie
GREATER SUSTAINABILITY, BETTER BUSINESSES
For consumers, it is heartening to know that local F&B businesses have already implemented existing sustainability measures, with more initiatives to be rolled out in the future.
But even as more companies become aware of the catastrophic environmental consequences of their existing operations, there is a common misconception that taking action towards greater sustainability exacts a cost to business profitability.
This is something the council hopes to change. The formation of the council is a beacon of hope that demonstrates a real commitment by the local F&B industry towards sustainability.
As Joseph Baratta, CEO of Trouble Brewing summed it up, “Too often sustainability is seen as a charitable or luxurious effort, but if done well it helps drive the bottom line. For us, that looks like efficient use of packaging, less wastage, fewer raw materials, and recycling – which all equals real savings. While some things – like only using compostable cups – is more expensive, on the balance we are a better business for it."
Reflecting on the outcomes of the first roundtable session, William Leonard, General Manager of The Loco Group, shared, “The council has felt like it has been a long time coming for a while now, and the energy and passion we witnessed at the first roundtable really drove that point home. There was a genuine desire from every member to want to do more.”
“Too often sustainability is seen as a charitable or luxurious effort, but if done well it helps drive the bottom line.” – Joseph Baratta
GOING BEYOND THE COUNCIL
And while the F&B scene in Singapore may be a competitive one, sustainability is an area where businesses hope to collaborate with one another. Another interesting initiative brought up at the roundtable was the creation of a Facebook group that will act as an educational platform for others in the industry.
To ensure that the council stays effective and well-managed, a decision was made to cap the number of core council members at 15. Instead, a closed Facebook group will be created for members to share insights into their sustainability journey with other F&B players who are not a part of the council. Anyone in the industry can apply to be a part of the group by emailing email@example.com.
“We made a decision that what was shared in the room wasn't just inspiring for members, but should serve as a source of inspiration for others in the industry with a genuine desire to make a difference,” Leonard opined. “There’s much to be done and I really hope that this will help be a source of information, or motivation for anyone who feels like they're going at it alone.”
“We made a decision that what was shared in the room wasn't just inspiring for members, but should serve as a source of inspiration for others in the industry with a genuine desire to make a difference.” – William Leonard