This week, global brewer AB InBev announced two major initiatives helping it advance toward its 2025 Sustainability Goals in different parts of the world.
From spent grain to saved grain
The brewing industry produces tons of grain residues annually. AB InBev is fighting this waste by giving these spent grains a second life and making beer by-products suitable for consumption. The sustainable technology was developed in AB InBev’s Global Innovation and Technology Center (GITeC) in Leuven. The possible applications are worldwide and endless, and help advance the brewer's new Global Sustainability Goals 2025 announced by AB InBev in mid-march.
“While we have tons of non-used, nutrient-rich spent grains in our breweries, 9 billion people on the planet by 2050 will dramatically increase the global food demand. We at AB InBev wanted to match those insights,” says Jorge Gil-Martinez, biochemical specialist and actual “inventor” of the technology at GITeC. “This technology has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of proteins and fibers and to unlock their nutritional value as food for people. These plant-based circular economy nutrients are much more sustainable than traditional sources like animals, potentially representing up to 75 percent reduction in CO2 emissions.”
During the brewing process, sugars from barley are removed, resulting in spent grains containing high amounts of proteins and fibers.
“Traditionally, the spent grains from the brewing process go to cattle farmers to feed the animals. The rest grain is dumped. However, this is not the most sustainable use of the nutritional values and on a global scale this amounts to a huge waste,” Gil-Martinez says. “We wanted to make these high-nutritional grain residues suitable for sustainable human consumption. Conceptually, it sounds easy, but we were facing many technological challenges.
“First of all, spent grains are perishable, and soon after production not suitable for food making. We developed an unique fermentation process to convert them into stable food ingredients,” he explained. “Secondly, the nutritional value from plant ingredients is somehow ‘locked,’ and we developed specific innovative technology to release it. And of course, we had to connect and scale up all these technologies. Our team in GITEC found an answer to these three challenges.”
Innovation only happens when R&D efforts are translated into successful commercial opportunities. The initial research started several years ago and was followed by extensive trials through multiple collaborations. The first concrete application of this technology is a fiber and protein shake called Canvas — a sustainable, plant-based barley beverage designed to support a health-conscious lifestyle; the company launched in 2017 with backing from ZxVentures, the disruptive growth organization of AB InBev. Canvas’ fiber + protein shakes made from saved grain come in five different flavors: Original, Cocoa, Latte, Matcha and Turmeric Chai. A limited amount of this drink is already for sale in the United States as a pilot project.
“The Canvas team made huge efforts to combine the saved grains with the right natural ingredients to create a tasteful beverage,” Gil-Martinez says.
Each bottle provides a rich and convenient source of dietary fiber, complete plant protein, essential fats and blend of delicious ingredients. The drink has 8 grams of protein and 11 grams of dietary fiber — 39 percent of the daily recommended allowance.
Reduced water consumption and carbon emissions
The technology represents a way to enable access to water-efficient nutrient sources — for example, it has been calculated that animal meat requires 15 times more water for its production than the same amount of any cereal. It also supports the brewer’s goal to reduce its carbon emissions. Gil-Martinez says by re-utilizing several tons of spent grains in a dedicated on-site facility, AB InBev can potentially reduce carbon emissions approximately 5,000 tons per year through an industrial-scale implementation of this technology in Europe.
Canvas provides consumers with access to 100 percent plant-based proteins as a more sustainable alternative to less sustainable, meat-based proteins. And the technology can potentially be expanded: by saving the barley, the brewer can provide the world with a source of nutrients for many different healthy food applications.
Anheuser-Busch to convert entire dedicated fleet to renewable power by 2025
Through this agreement, Anheuser-Busch aims to convert its entire long-haul dedicated fleet to renewable powered trucks by 2025. Nikola’s cutting-edge technology will enable the brewer to achieve this milestone across its long-haul loads, while also helping to improve road safety through the trucks’ advanced surround viewing system.
“At Anheuser-Busch, we’re continuously searching for ways to improve sustainability across our entire value chain and drive our industry forward,” said Michel Doukeris, CEO of Anheuser-Busch. “The transport industry is one that is ripe for innovative solutions, and Nikola is leading the way with hydrogen-electric, zero-emission capabilities. We are very excited by the possibilities our partnership with them can offer.”
“Hydrogen-electric technology is the future of logistics and we’re proud to be leading the way,” added Trevor Milton, CEO of Nikola Motor Company. “Anheuser-Busch has a long history of investing in progressive, sustainable technology and we are excited to partner with them to bring the largest hydrogen network in the world to the USA. By 2028, we anticipate having over 700 hydrogen stations across the USA and Canada. With nearly 9 billion dollars in pre-order reservations, we are building to order, not speculation, and are very excited for what’s to come.”
The partnership with Nikola will contribute to Anheuser-Busch’s recently announced 2025 Sustainability Goals, which include reducing CO2 emissions by 25 percent across its value chain[i]. Once fully implemented, the carbon reductions gained from these 800 trucks will reduce the brewer’s carbon emissions from logistics by more than 18 percent — equivalent to taking more than 13,000 passenger vehicles off the road annually.
Emissions reduction has, and continues to be, a long-term focus for Anheuser-Busch. In 2006, the brewer joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport program; and since 2008, has reduced its total energy use in U.S. breweries by more than 30 percent.
[i] 25 percent carbon reduction per beverage is in line with science-based methodology and has been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative.