I am really happy to be the first cocktail delivery company in the UK to move to a combination of packaging which is genuinely either compostable or 100% recyclable. In November 2020 I finished the durability testing phase for my compostable drinks pouches and placed the first order to transition away from plastic.
I deliberatley avoided using ‘baby food’ style pouches. The reason is that they contain multi-layers of plastic or plastic with aluminium, and they are known to be difficult to recycle as described in this Times article.
The journey to non-plastic pouches was not easy, with over 20 companies turning me down at the idea of using compostable material to package liquids.
I have been lucky enough to find a company willing to work with on a solution, and am happy to say that the new & improved custom compostable pouches are now all I use. These pouches not only look smart, but are durable and no longer have leaks during shipping. The pouches I use are made from PLA and PBAT and certified to fully compost at home. I have a blog post about the details of the them here.
Cocktails By Mail pouches are not the flashiest or most slick branded container for your cocktails, but I chose them specifically because they are compostable and with no palm oil. They compost under ambient temperatures (<30c) in weeks rather than years, and we can be happy knowing that you don’t have to worry about throwing them in the bin. We’re not pretending to be perfect, but there was a solution out there to reduce plastic packaging and we chose to use it.
Our labels are also printed on plain paper without any coatings or foiling. This means you may notice moisture affects them when pulling our drinks out of your fridge or freezer, but I do not want to use labels with plastic coatings or metallic foils that are either not at all recyclable or can be difficult to do so. It breaks my heart because I also love great design, but I need to draw the line and choose not to use plastic polymer based labels or plastic polymer based pouches.
For our UK deliveries we use Royal Mail as a carrier with existing routes to your address every week, meaning less extra delivery van journeys.
In the future we would love to work with my suppliers of packaging backwards up the chain to try and eliminate as much supply chain plastic and non-recyclable material as I can. Let’s be honest though, this will require Cocktails By Mail to grow the business to a size where I can have these conversations with our suppliers as a major customer instead of a cottage industry business.
I really encourage you to take a good look at the ingredients we are putting in your drinks. Every time a drink goes on our menu I think about the sourcing of our produce, and how I can use ingredients with less waste. For example we turned banana skins into a syrup (banana oleo) with pure fair trade cane sugar. The cranberry juice for our Cosmo, is not from concetrate organic pure-pressed. I've been able to rescue over 30kg of bergamots from the bin and juice them for the summer menu.
I genuinely do my best to find the best quality ingredients. This means that when I do have a perishable imported ingredient that can’t realistically be replaced such as lime, I do my best to use them in a zero waste way. That means I make a whole lime cordial using every part of the lime. It also gives me a much longer shelf life as I combine the sugar and citrus together at the point of production meaning so far I've not wasted a single drop. I do this because I don’t want to substitute with inferior ingredients, for example citric acid instead of lime in a Margarita. Don’t get me wrong there can be a place for citric acid in certain circumstances, but I just don't like the taste of substituting acids for citrus in drinks. If a business doesn’t want to use limes because of a genuine desire to reduce food miles I think it's better to just not put a Margarita on the menu at all.
Then there is my alcohol product selection. You’ll see that I tell you exactly which products I am using and why that product is in the cocktail. Where possible I choose UK based ingredients, but I also balance this with using companies who are really doing good for the environment even if they aren't from the UK. It is a tricky scale to weigh, but I think supporting the brands that are doing the right and ethical choices for our Earth outweighs being made locally but maybe using unscrupulous practices. I mean, obviously there are exceptions for products with protected origin status such as Tequila and Cognac that must come from abroad, but I am trying my hardest to make sure to choose producers with good production methods. I have started sourcing spirits I can buy in bulk from local companies, cutting down on transport emissions and material (glass) wastage. I am currently buying gin and vodka from 58 Distillery in large containers, delivered directly to my shop via a green courier. Buying in bulk does not mean less quality, as 58 Distillery produces some amazing spirits and was recently awarded IWSC Trophy (ie: the best of the best) for UK Gin Production.
I am proud to announce that I have partnered with Carbon Neutral Britain to offset Cocktails By Mail's carbon footprint, and plant 30 trees each month in sustainable projects around the world and offset 60 tonnes of CO²e every year. This is a vital part of my business, as I want to make sure I take every step I can to ensure enjoying tasty cocktails doesn't damage our planet more. What I won't say is that Cocktails By Mail is carbon neutral. Because we aren't. We can't be until I know that every product I use through my supply change is also carbon neutral. So instead I plan to offset as much as I can and learn more about what my carbon impact truly is, including getting a complete carbon footprint audit as the business grows. For more information visit www.carbonneutralbritain.org
Fed up with Bullshit
I’ll let you in on a secret as I've been in the drinks industry for a long time, when it comes to ingredients there’s a hell of a lot of bullshit right in front of your nose. I’ve noticed the bullshit gets amplified when you’re looking online and can't physically touch or taste the product, or talk to a human about it. That’s why I name our ingredients in every cocktail. You'll never see a generic term like 'vodka' or 'premium spirit' listed, where I can then bung in whatever cheap crap I want. That's not fair to you the customer.
I don’t think it’s funny at all - that some online delivery menus are composed of products all from the same big spirit company or used purely because someone received a cheque from the alcohol supplier. I think it’s anti-competitive and limits customer choice, your choice. I am more understanding when this happens in bricks and mortar cocktail bars, because let’s face it rent is far too damn high for these places and if you are talking to a bartender you have the opportunity to request another brand if you like.
At the end of the day I want our drinks to be ‘crushable’ and accessible like your favourite taco joint, or that local Italian who make the pasta dish you love and go back to for the reasonable pricing that doesn’t take the piss.
Why do I do this?
If you've got this far quite simple really, because I give three big hoots
• I give a hoot about being better for the environment.
• I give a hoot about where our ingredients come from.
• I give a whole bunch of hoots to make you the best product we can, so you can enjoy our drinks and don’t have to worry so much about giving a hoot.