Surrey Countryside Champions – Crumbs Brewing
Founded by husband and wife team, Morgan and Elaine Arnell in 2017, Crumbs Brewing is fighting food waste by working with a local artisan baker, taking their leftover bread and turning it into beer. The lovingly made craft beers have quickly gone from strength to strength and are now stocked in Southern Co-op and National Trust properties and delivering nationwide.
But for Morgan and Elaine, it was important that sustainability is more than just a buzzword. From the leftover bread that is the key ingredient in their beer to exploring all options for minimising their carbon footprint, sustainability is baked right into their business.
We caught up with Morgan to find out more about the inspiration behind the business and what’s next for Crumb Brewing.
1. How did Crumbs Brewing come about?
Elaine and I spent our careers working in consumer insight and innovation for some of the world’s biggest companies. We actually first met at Procter & Gamble where I developed new ideas for household products such as Ariel laundry detergent and Fairy washing-up liquid and Elaine had the slightly more glamorous role of researching new flavours for Pringles snacks. Eventually, we began to get frustrated that we spent our lives coming up with ideas for other people and didn’t actually get to create and sell anything ourselves.
Now living in Reigate in Surrey, we are both very involved in our local community and especially enjoy exploring the local foodie community and its great variety of pubs, restaurants, and farm shops. Our town benefits from a wealth of independent businesses and we got to know a lot of them as customers. It was this engagement with our local community that inspired us to explore the idea of creating a foodie brand ourselves. We also both love the excitement of creating something new, learning new skills and (without sounding too corporate) pushing ourselves outside our ‘comfort zones’.
In 2017, when we first started exploring our ideas further, I had recently worked for a large brewer which had expanded a lifelong passion for drinking beer into a deeper interest and passion for the process of creating great brews. Alongside that, we were both growing increasingly frustrated with how some of the global brands we had worked for were failing to really tackle the growing problems of climate change. Despite all the positive talk, real action always seemed to fall short. With companies putting the status quo and the desire for profit before what was really important for the environment.
This was when our story gained momentum. First we spoke to our local bakery, Chalk Hills. They were a local business also run by a husband and wife team. They confirmed waste was indeed a factor of their business. At best, their two shops had unsold loaves every day that they gave to a local farmer, at worst they had a significant wholesale business where they suspected their customers were putting any unsold bread in black bags and binning. Over a couple of months we got them to track all this waste and it added up to quite a shocking amount.
Next, I used my contacts in the brewing industry to explore exactly how we could go about brewing with bread. I didn’t just want to copy what others had tried. As we planned to partner with Chalk Hills, a small independent artisan baker, I was adamant whatever we created would do justice to the skill, time, and effort that went into creating their product. Their bread had to enhance our beer, not just be a leftover ingredient we were throwing in to use up something that would otherwise be wasted. We developed a method that replaces 25% of the malt with the bread, and importantly, crumbs the bread first to start the process of breaking down the starches in the bread to maximize their contribution to the fermentability and flavour of the brew. With that we had found our name: Crumbs!
2. What inspired you to tackle food waste?
Nearly half the bread made in the UK goes to waste. That stat shocked Elaine and I so much we decided to do something about it. We created Crumbs Brewing, a brand that turns unsold loaves from our local artisan bakery into a range of delicious beers. We built the business from scratch, starting out selling alongside our baker at local markets to now supplying the likes of Southern Co-op and the National Trust, as well as a wide range of pubs, restaurants, hotels, and farm shops. We also achieved our B-Corp certification this year which we are very proud of.
We are passionate that the bread we use in our brews should mean something to our beers quality and flavour. Each beer is made with a single type of loaf, that way the beer reflects the bread that makes it. We believe it’s the sweet spot of a great purpose and a great product story.
3. Sustainability is clearly important to you. What do you do to make sure your business is as sustainable as possible?
There is an obvious sustainable purpose at the heart of our business, turning something that would otherwise be wasted into a new delicious product. Indeed, we’ve already saved over 50,000 loaves from waste working with our local bakery alone. It’s not only a sensible thing to do but also reduces the overall carbon footprint of our entire process due to a reduced reliance on farmed ingredients like malt. The simple act of brewing using surplus bread reduces carbon emissions by over 4.2 tonnes of CO2 eq. That’s impressive for a, still rather tiny, craft brewer.
That said, there are many other elements of our business that contribute to our environmental impact. We actually worked with the University of Surrey to conduct a full lifecycle analysis of our products to better understand what elements drive our carbon footprint. As a result, we’ve now moved all our local deliveries to be by electric van and work with a national courier that uses greener delivery methods. We are also transitioning our entire range from bottles into cans in the new year as the carbon savings are quite drastic.
We are also passionate about supporting people – £1 from every online sale goes to Food Cycle, a charity that uses unsold food to support people in need across the country. It means that we actually give over 1% of our total sales away to charity.
4. Turning leftover bread into beer is such a great way to reduce food waste. Are there future plans to develop more products by using leftover food?
Our latest innovation was the Naan Laager. A world’s first beer made using ‘wonky’ Naan bread rejected from the manufacturing process. It’s a delicious light lager, designed to be drunk with spicy food and a great alternative to the usual beers you often find in Indian restaurants!
We’re always looking for new sources of waste, both bread and beyond so watch this space.
5. How can people and Surrey residents support the work you do?
It’s obvious but please try our beers! Either buy direct from our website, we deliver nationally (and often free in our local area), or seek us out in any of the local pubs, restaurants, and farm shops that stock us! If you find us, please let us know what you think and tag us on socials.
6. The team at Crumbs Brewing is doing amazing work. When you take a break what’s your favourite Surrey greenspace to explore?
Our family has always been regular visitors to National Trust properties (way before they started selling our beer!). Polesden Lacy and the walks around it will always have a special place in our hearts. Our kids pretty much grew up there most weekends, exploring the woods and playing in the grounds. It’s a stunning location that holds so many special memories.