For this week’s edition of ‘8Shades Of’, we’re raising a glass to Naman Tekriwal – one of the co-founders of Breer, an ingenious food upcycling company in Hong Kong that turns leftover bread into delicious craft beer.
We chat to Naman about other upcycling start-ups that inspire him, what we can do about the food waste problem in Hong Kong and why sourdough loaves don’t necessarily brew tasty beer!
See also: 6 Companies That Are Tackling Food Waste
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?
Breer is a food upcycling start-up that aims to save the world by spearheading an industry revolution, using surplus bread to make premium quality craft beer.
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
Living in New Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital, made me deeply sensitive to climate change. Seeing the city’s air pollution, rising temperatures and mounting landfills led to my developing interest in sustainability.
I remember reading a definition of sustainable development in school, which perfectly summed up to me why sustainability is important: “Development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” For so long, the world has engaged in unsustainable development and exploited its natural resources to an irreversible state, so now every action should be directed towards minimising our impact on the planet.
With a family history of entrepreneurship, problem solving also comes naturally to me – and with climate change being the most critical issue faced by the planet, I’ve made it my personal mission to promote conscious capitalism, solving the problem of sustainability through business and innovation!
3. What’s your best eco habit – and your not-so green one?
My best eco habits are food-related. Given the negative impact that meat consumption has, being a vegetarian ensures that my food consumption is less of a burden on the planet. I also take great care not to waste food.
My not-so-green habit is buying fast fashion – but I try to maximise my clothes’ longevity by wearing them for as long as possible and donating once I’ve outgrown them.
4. Fave eco brands?
Code Effort is one of my favourite brands as they upcycle a resource that most people believed couldn’t be repurposed. They recycle cigarette butts, extracting cotton from them to turn into soft toys – a real sin-to-win journey!
Phool is also a brilliant example of this; they collect old flowers from temples and mosques, using them to make charcoal-free incense sticks. Their model of upcycling a wasted resource and creating a circular economy is truly inspiring.
5. Fave veggie dishes in Hong Kong?
My all-time favourite veggie dishes are the truffle pasta and kimchi noodles from Green Common – I visit frequently to support them, as I love their mission and find their founder David Yeung inspiring! I also love the falafel bowl at Chickpea, vegetarian pizzas from The Pizza Project, and spring rolls and fried rice at Din Tai Fung, Kung Tak Lam and Chilli Fagara.
See also: 8Shades Of… Chan Kai Ying of Chilli Fagara
6. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in starting Breer?
Starting the business amidst the pandemic was one of the biggest challenges – with all breweries shut, we had no avenue to initiate production of our test batches. We ended up learning brewing through YouTube and using home brewing kits.
Another challenge was identifying and locking down a consistent source of surplus bread. We didn’t receive replies from larger bakery chains, so pivoted to working with smaller bakeries for our pilot beer batches – which eventually led to us forming long-term partnerships with bigger companies like Maxim’s and La Rose Noire by Gerald Dubois.
Then there was the challenge of figuring out a tasty recipe! We realised how every bread type contributed to the beer’s taste; for instance, using sourdough made the beer extremely salty and not drinkable. We brewed 20 unsuccessful batches before arriving at the final product.
7. What is something about food waste that you think people in Hong Kong should be more aware of? What other food waste initiatives would you like to see here?
People should be aware just how much food waste is generated in Hong Kong – the equivalent of 3,600 tonnes daily. It would be great if people could contribute to initiatives like Chomp and Phenix by On The List, where restaurants sell discounted surplus food, to help mitigate food waste.
See also: Chomp – Taking A Bite Out Of Food Waste
I also think Hong Kong should do away with the stigma of best before dates, as products close to and even beyond these dates are usually still fit for consumption. People should be aware of shops like GreenPrice, where you can buy these products and engage in food waste preservation.
I’d love to see new initiatives for collecting food waste from major events and donating them to Hong Kong’s underprivileged, and for more upcycling companies that deal with a variety of food waste through re-commercialisation. We’re hoping to expand Breer into several verticals, such as juices and seltzers from surplus fruit and vegetables, bread from spent grain (residue from the beer brewing process), clothing from spoilt milk and much more!
8. What shade of green are you?
Dark green to represent ambition. For me, ambition is the most important factor – it gives you the courage to take on the world’s most pressing issues and make people embark on the journey of going green!
Find out more about Breer
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