The best for the world

In 2015, Americans consumed 6.3 billion gallons of beer, 50 per cent of which was in cans; that’s a lot of discarded plastic from packaging which ends up in the sea. Each year 1,000,000 birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die due to plastic related incidents. With the country’s continued embracement of craft beer as a concept, this figure will only surely to rise in the near future.

“Most plastic beer six‐pack rings end up in our oceans and pose a serious threat to wildlife,” said Chris Gove, co-founder of Saltwater Brewery and edible six pack rings. “Simply cutting the plastic is not enough as animals still swallow it. According to Greenpeace, 80 per cent of sea turtles and 70 per cent of sea birds are ingesting plastic today.

“For a long time, cans have been the best packaging solution for beer – they are lightweight, resistant and easy to carry. However, with the plastic six-pack rings ending up in the sea, we felt there had to be a better solution that didn’t pose a serious threat to wildlife.”

Saltwater Brewery is the brainchild of Floridian friends Peter Agarty, Bo Eaton, Dustin Jeffers and our interviewee Chris Gove. Still very much in their infancy as brewers, Saltwater only opened its doors in December 2013. Since then, craft brewing has become a way of life for Gove and his team, which means they are able to combine their two passions; beer and the ocean.

“Our roots and values originate from the ocean. Our goal is to maintain the world’s greatest wonder by giving back to the ocean through Ocean Based Charities (CCA, Surfrider, Ocean Foundation, MOTE),” explains Gove. “Our passion for making quality beer is the way we can ensure we give back to the ocean as much as possible.

“Personally, I lived in San Diego for eight years and I experienced the thriving craft beer scene there and felt there was a large gap in the beer world of Florida. Using only pure and natural ingredients, special care is given to each batch of hand crafted beer. Saltwater Brewery is more than a craft brewing company; it’s a way of life.”

Saltwater’s house beers appear to be an eclectic mix varying between classic IPA’s to an unusual ‘Sea Cow Milk Stout’. It is those two beers which appear in can format, but it’s the development of its Edible Six Pack Rings which has gone viral on both sides of the Atlantic. With its neat design, and ethical and environmental credentials making it 100 per cent biodegradable and compostable, there is no wonder the level of interest that has been generated in such a short space of time. Other carriers are 100 per cent recyclable such as PakTech’s Can Carrier (as reported in CanTech International April 2016), however it appears that the Edible Can Ring is the only carrier that is edible and protects wildlife. But where does the idea originate from?

“The idea itself was developed in conjunction with ‘We Believers’, a co-creation advertising agency,” stated Gove. “Together we decided to tackle the issue head on and make a statement for the whole beer industry to follow. The six-pack packaging design works by feeding animals rather than killing them.

“By using by-products of the beer brewing process such as barley and wheat, this packaging goes beyond recycling and strives to achieve zero waste. The Edible Six Pack Rings are the first ever 100 per cent biodegradable, compostable and edible packaging implemented in the beer industry. Within two hours the rings disintegrate into the ocean which stops animals getting caught up in them.

“After months of design rounds, variations in raw material mix and stress tests, we had our first batch. It was as resistant and efficient as the current plastic six-pack ring option. If most craft brewers and big beer companies implement this technology, the manufacturing cost will drop and be very competitive compared with the current plastic solution. They know, this is only the beginning; the material they are patenting together with a small start-up of young engineers in Mexico has the potential to impact the CPG and Food and Beverage Industries. Saving hundreds of thousands of marine lives is the result.

“For brands to be successful today, it is no longer about being the best in the world, but rather being the best for the world and taking a real stance.”

So far during April of this year, 500 edible six pack prototypes were tested in the brewery and with consumers. Consumer reactions were said to be extremely positive and enthusiastic about saving the oceans and their thirst all at the same time. The next steps will be to manufacture an aluminium and inox steel machined mould which allows a production of 400,000 Edible Six Pack Rings per month. This should be ready within the next six months.

With the amount of positive media coverage the Edible Six Pack Ring has encountered, it does pose a question as to where this leaves the Brewery itself. Has this been sidelined in favour of developing the Six Pack Ring? Gove is unequivocal in his view that the brewery will remain unaffected.

“We will be keeping the edible rings and our brewery as two separate entities,” said Gove. “There’s no reason the two projects can’t run side by side and as both develop, each should help the other. The real aim is to try and inspire the big guys to make a real difference.”

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