Farm diversification; that was the move that saw the birth of what is now the UK’s big craft distillery, and a distillery that has changed gin globally with its use of fruit juice and not artificial flavours, to create flavoured gin.

Tom and Tina Warner were looking for ways to diversify their farm and create new revenue streams, and Tom told The Bloody Big Drinks Summit that gin ‘was the least stupid idea’ they had for farm diversification.

Tom’s chat at the summit talked about the history of the Warner’s Distillery, how they changed the gin category and its journey.

“We’ve been the UK’s biggest craft distillery for some time, and we’ve done it on a shoestring, we’ve done it through excruciating blood, sweat, tears and hard work and innovation; not being blinkered,” Tom said.

“We didn’t have experts from the booze industry telling us what to do, we just used our gut as our guide and nature as our inspiration, and changed gin globally.”

The Warner’s presentation for the Summit, was not just about the history of the brand, but also its strong focus, ethos, around sustainability. When you speak to Tom you can feel the passion he has for the environment and for minimising the impact the business has on it. As a farmer you understand why it’s so important to him.

Tom was joined for the presentation by Warner’s Conservation and Sustainability Manager, Johnny Easter.

Jonny, became the Warner’s Distillery Manager after helping to establish an apiary on the farm to help with the production of Honeybee Gin, he told the Summit that when he started in that role, he took the opportunity to look at the operations of the business, “and really start to ask questions around, ‘as we grow as a business, what is our responsibility from an environmental point of view”.

He added: “There’s a real opportunity to connect customers with the role that nature plays. For me it’s about bringing to the attention of our consumers how we rely on the countryside and how we rely on nature to develop our products.

“There are some really big issues globally facing everybody; massive issues around our impact on the environment. Consumption is growing as population is increasing so we need to start looking at what is our impact as individuals, but also as businesses, on some of these big issues and as a responsible business we need to start tackling some of those.”

But how does a business go about understanding what’s important to them, and then measure the outcomes of what they are doing?

Warner’s created its own sustainability strategy in 2019, to identify what were the key areas and hotspots for the business.

Johnny said: “We refined that done to how we source ingredients, how we consume our own materials, like energy and raw ingredients, the waste that we generate. But also our position in the landscape, how we interact with the farm … how we look after own our site.”

Johnny goes on to explain how Warner’s uses B-Corp to quantify and verify the company’s environmental performance, and how B-Corp can help businesses deliver change.

Tom Warner told the Summit: “It is a phenomenal framework, we’re not saying everyone has to become a B-Corp member, it might not work for every business. But the way it sets out a framework is that it gives you the ability to measure your shit that you need to look after, but then there’s an overlap so that if every business in the world looked after their bit it would solve everything.”

That focus on collective action is a key element to sustainability, your individual actions might only be a diluted contribution, but if everyone does a small bit that becomes a massive action that can make fundamental differences to our environment.

Warner added: “It’s great when green issues become competitive tension; ‘who can be the greenest?’

“What a planet we live on, if we can convert business to ‘who can be the greenest’, so not only have the tastiest product, but have the greenest product as your credentials. That’s going to be a really sexy place that we can get into.”

As well as talking through these key sustainability issues and how this focus has shaped and helped Warner’s, Tom and Johnny also take you for a walk through the farm gardens and talk about some of the global issues, but also the huge opportunities facing the industry.

The Bloody Big Drinks Summit is home to more than 70 presentations around a wide variety of key issues for the industry. There are also a number of presentations relating to hospitality operations, which are available to view for free.

To see the full Warner’s presentation, head to The Bloody Big Drinks Summit website.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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