BEST KEPT SECRET
WRITTEN BY VICTOR MORGAN
What comes to your mind when you think about Appenzell?
Green mountains… Little wooden houses. … and public squares where people get together in order to vote by raising their hands. The famous Landsgemeinde.On the train from St.Gallen to Appenzell the person sitting next to us already seemed to come straight from a Heidi movie but once we reached the town, the image we had in our minds was overshadowed by the real place: Appenzell is the real Swiss paradise. Its historical center is a set of richly decorated wooden houses surrounded by fresh nature and impressive mountains. I had the impression of being inside a giant Playmobile town.
But we weren't here solely for Appenzell's charm. We were there for its beer. We wanted to know what hid behind the Appenzeller brewery and were granted an interview with Mr. Loscher, the Head of Brauerei Loscher, and Mastermind behind the famous Quollfrisch beers.
The beers are easily recognisable by the landscape drawn on their bottle. The image conveyed by the company is nice but we wanted to hear more about the company’s vision, and what hid behind its logo.
As we met Herr Loscher, we soon realised that he wasn’t the kind of person to waste much time. His words are crisp and come straight to the point.
Mr Loscher explained his philosophy :
“The company does a conscientious effort reusing the by-products of their activities. The problem today is that many big companies focus so much on their main production, that the residual waste ends up being thrown away. Yet this is not how things used to be.
At the time the farms were poor and could not afford wasting anything. With the age of industrialization came specialization. You focus on your knowledge and leave it at that, we don’t know what others are doing and this is why there is so much waste! When you consider a brewery as ours this waste represents large quantities. So here at Brauerei Loscher, we look at each product leaving the brewery and consider it as a primary product. This forces us to think about ideas to give them added value“.
So what are your brewery’s by-products?
“The first thing we get after the fermentation process is waste water. So we invested to separate the waste water from our production from the sanitary waste water. We select only the valuable waste water. It may seem pointless at first but the truth is that it is full of nutrients. So we use the clean water and gas as fertilizers for our fields”.
Aren’t there more by-products than simply water and gas ?
“Yes, the final step of the fermentation process leaves us with two things : yeast and treber.
Yeast can be used in bakeries or as vitamins for animal foods. It is also used for daily products such as Cenovis or Marmite. So it already has a higher value.
The treber is a non soluble fiber we get after using the grains and malt. We collect and treat it with a special process. This gives us very high quality fiber. The fiber can be used in cereals and muesli. For companies producing cereals, healthy fibers are expensive. They are also important for proper digestion. We use the biggest part of these fibers to produce potato chips. So the result of our by-product is not waste. It becomes a useful commodity.”
Do you think that many breweries will end up investing into a more sustainable production cyle ?
It is not as easy as it seems. Treating the by-products requires a big investment. We are a family firm so I am doing this for the next generation and nobody asks me for accountability. Imagine what would happen if you were a manager employed by a big firm. You are accountable to the shareholders. These shareholders care about their dividend of the year. So every year, those firms strive for reaching the best numbers. The problem is that they lose focus on the long-term. The manager thinks more on a short-term basis. Family businesses think about future generations, and the manager has to think in his time, because every half-year, he has to show the numbers, and if they are not good because they invested in sustainability, or something that will pay back in 10 years, the banks are unlikely to be happy. Short-term thinking is not good for the environment.
Explaining consumption patterns, Mr. Loescher commented:
People are slow learners. I find it right and logic to do my bit. You don’t have to be an extremist, just dedicate some time to do the right thing. Change a little bit the trend of how you live. If you don’t do it, who will? Even environmentalists who know what should be done, don’t do it when it affects their purse. My motivation is not mere profit, so I put the effort in it and employ people to do it, although most businesses wouldn’t.
We would sell the same amount of beer if we didn’t treat the by-products. But it is logical: everything we have has been taken from the earth so we give back to the earth. The work you have to do is to change people, make them aware of environmental considerations. Some do it for marketing purposes, we do it simply because we think it’s normal. We don’t do marketing with that. We just offer a new specialty, with fibers that are really clean. But not as if it were a moral imperative to buy our new product. In addition when It comes to the beers or the chips people won’t by them because of their story. The products must sell on their own. This is why we do not mix our vision with the marketing".
When we asked him whether he was interested in coming to St.Gallen, Mr Loscher’s answer was direct:
“It wouldn’t make sense if what I told you did not change your consumption patterns. Come back in six months and tell me if you still buy the same products in your supermarkets!”