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Toast Ale: delicious craft beer, brewed from surplus bread

Let’s eliminate local bread waste, raise awareness, and pour profits into fixing our broken food system.

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Up to 44% of bakery products go to waste, with over 15 million tonnes of bread thrown away per year in the UK alone. Half of that waste is created before it even reaches the end consumer.  

At Toast Ale our mission is to collect the surplus fresh bread from bakeries, delis and sandwich factories, and brew it into delicious craft beer.  The bread replaces one third of the malt barley required in the brewing process, and 100% of profits are poured back into fixing our broken food system, making Toast the best thing since… well, you know!

We launched out of Hackney, London in January 2016 and have already rescued over one tonne of bread from being wasted. Our beer is also bringing the food waste message to new audiences, highlighting how simple and delicious the solutions can be. We have already expanded to Yorkshire and Bristol in the UK, and have had partnership requests from brewers and changemakers internationally, from Denver, Pittsburgh and LA to Austria and Iceland.

How can we scale the rev-ale-ution around the world?  Already, we have open-sourced our unique recipe online for home brewers, and challenged London Amateur Brewers to experiment with their own versions. Next, we want to build a global network of partners producing and distributing local Toast brews, with profits going to community-based food waste projects.

A story born out of collaboration: Tristram Stuart, our founder and life-long food waste campaigner, saw first-hand that bread was the largest problem ingredient within food waste. It has a short shelf-life and is cheaply produced in large quantities beyond demand: during a visit to a sandwich manufacturer in 2008 he saw 13,000 slices of bread being thrown away in a single day. In 2015 he visited the Brussels Beer Project- who themselves brew a waste bread beer called Babylone - and was inspired to create Toast. The Brussels team was keen to collaborate and open-source, and have supported our journey to globalise the idea of bread beer as a tasty solution to bakery waste in the UK and around the world. 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Our first idea is to launch international franchises. We would like to conduct stakeholder interviews with 3 interested international partners to: - understand our role as master franchisor from their perspective - what support is needed? - learn about the craft ale market internationally - where are the best opportunities? - gain insights on consumer perspectives on products solving food waste - should our branding be adapted in new countries?

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

If you are a food waste entrepreneur: What would enable you to join the Toast rev-ale-ution and launch your own commercial brew? Any concerns? If you are a franchise: What are your top tips around quality control and franchise manuals? If you're a finance whizz: What capital-raising, crowdfunding or loan sources could you envision for our new, international Toast start-ups? For 100% of profits to go to the fight against food waste, we'll need alternatives to traditional investment.

Tell us about your work experience:

I joined Toast in January to apply my 20 years' retail and category manager experience to this important mission. Our Founder Tristram Stuart is an award-winning author, speaker and campaigner on the environmental and social impacts of food. He founded the charity Feedback and has been recognised with the Sophie Prize, Ashoka Fellowship, and UNEP. Our team includes expertise in climate change policy, food waste campaigning, product design, social media, accountancy and of course... home brewing!

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s launched and we’re working on gathering more feedback – it’s existed for over 6 months

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

We’d describe our idea as the way in which we would identify food waste entrepreneurs in locations around the world with whom we would agree fair and formal terms with to launch Toast Ale. By combining their local knowledge with our expertise we can collaborate and brew great beer which would be sold locally to raise awareness of food waste and raise funds to help eliminate it around the world.

[Only for launched ideas] How does your idea differ from what you're already doing?

So far all our beer has been brewed in England, led by the London based Toast Team, and sold to British beer fans. However, we know that bread is a key part of the diet in many locations around the world where beer is also popular. We would like to launch Toast Ale in these bread and beer loving countries so that we can use the surplus bread, raise funds both for Feedback and for food waste charities local to the area and continue to raise awareness of the food waste issue.

How is your idea unique to the space?

Toast Ale is the first surplus bread beer business. As well as raising awareness of the issue of food waste, it is also part of the solution, through both using the surplus bread in the recipe and by donating all profit to a campaigning organisation to help the fight against food waste. Our founder has built a network of food waste activists around the world and so we are well placed to identify partners who can take the 'Best Innovative Concept' (International Beer Challenge award 2016) global.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

We need passionate, energetic entrepreneurs with local knowledge in locations around the world to help replicate what the London team has achieved to date. They in turn will rely on expert craft brewers, bakers and sandwich makers donating their surplus, distributors, designers, marketeers, accountants, stockists, keen beer drinkers and many more! In order to formalise the franchise agreements to ensure both parties are happy we will need expert help from lawyers.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

1) Volume of bread diverted from waste. 2) Awareness of food waste issues as measured through engagement with social media campaigns, reach of press coverage generated, and surveys sent to online customers and home brewers. 3) Profits raised to support fixing our broken food system, and the impact our charity partners report due to our donations. 4) Finally, we ultimately aim for wide scale industry influence, illustrated by the number of beers on the market utilising surplus as an ingredient.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

We will continue to grow our UK business as we approach our first anniversary and a key time for gifting and beer drinking. We will also be working hard on preparing for our first brew in the US. We hope to soon agree our first international franchise. We are sure to learn a great deal from this and hope that in sharing our knowledge and experience we will also gain insights about how to further grow our UK business whilst supporting the first of what we hope are many International launches.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Yuexi

Hi Julie,  
Your idea is awesome and I love it! I believe that if you could provide what quality condition of surplus bread are acceptable for craft beers would be better. As we also wanna make sure the beers wouldn't cause any health issues while solving this challenge. Cheers! All the best!


Photo of julie

You are correct, we do not want ill health over beer!
The bread should be good enough to eat, it's unfortunate that this bread is so often not eaten - so we brew it!

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