With over 3.000 different types of bread and an annual consumption of more than 70 kilograms per person, Germany is rightly considered as the bread nation (Deutsches Brotinstitut; statista). Bread creates community and, in some customs, even means prosperity. It is a symbol of people’s livelihood around the world. In Germany, it is one of the most valued products and has been an intangible cultural heritage since 2014 (UNESCO). Yet, an unbelievable amount of almost two million tons of baked goods end up in the garbage every year, even though they are still perfectly edible (WWF). In Germany alone, we waste 313 kilograms of edible food every second and thereby unnecessarily increasing climate change (WWF). Which is why the beer brand Knärzje (German for the end piece of a loaf of bread) decided to use discarded bread as the key ingredient for their beer to become Germany’s first ecologically certified zero waste beer.
In every bottle of Knärzje is a slice of discarded organic bread and thus a contribution against food waste. To the founders Daniel (Dan) and Ralf, the end piece of a loaf of bread is not the end, but the beginning and therefore the key ingredient for their beer. Their mission is to make the world better by drinking beer, to combine enjoyment and sustainability, which by no means should be defined as a waiver or restriction. The concept of Knärzje is to introduce zero waste into food production and to brew a beer that saves discarded bread from the garbage, brings it back into the cycle and expands the raw material base for beer production. The brand replaces up to a quarter of the brewing malt with excess or returned bread. “There is an assumption that the first beer ever brewed, about 5,000 years ago, was in ancient Mesopotamia, because a loaf of bread fell into a bucket of water and that is how beer was invented in the first place. In the past, however, raw materials were scarcer, but today we live in abundance,” says founder Dan.
The idea came from founder Dan in 2018: While following the success of bread beer abroad, the author, publicist and trend researcher wondered why no one in Germany, the land of beer and bread, had launched this product. “The inspiration came during a trip to London, when I was able to get to know the world’s first bread beer there. I brought the idea back to Germany, one thing led to another, and I entered the beer business as a complete career changer,” says Dan. Sustainably inspired and intrinsically motivated to avoid food waste with creative solutions, the search for partners began. With the microbreweries BrauStil and Brewids, supporters of his idea were quickly found, and the first tests of beer brewing took place. In the summer of 2018, the first beer called Frankfurter Knärzje was then brewed with discarded bread of the organic bakery Zeit für Brot. Frankfurt’s beer lovers and sustainability enthusiasts were taken with the new creation, which drew attention to the brand and was followed by several awards. “We have deliberately chosen a very drinkable and mainstream beer in terms of recipe and taste, so that we can bring as many people as possible into contact with the topic of food waste and thus inspire them to rethink and act,” says Dan. The small, local and voluntarily initiated project quickly raised awareness beyond the region and in 2019, the start-up and beer of the same name, Knärzje, was born.
Since 2020, Knärzje works in partnership with the organic breweryBergmann and was thus able to have their beer ecologically certified. Bergmann, founded in 2009, has itself won several awards with their beers, focusses on sustainability and is only about half an hour away from the Frankfurt-based brand Knärzje. Also, they partnered with Biokaiser, one of the biggest organic bakery chains in Germany, to scale up production and to be able to save more bread from being discarded. “With Biokaiser, we can use surplus and declining bread after a large part has already been saved by food banks and other organizations. Since the quantities are unfortunately very large, we can still brew a lot of beer with the surplus,” says Ralf.
The founders Dan and Ralf have been friends since school and been committed to combating food waste for years. Dan has been a volunteer against food-waste with his own non-profit association ShoutOutLoud and a coach in several zero food waste workshops. Consultant and organizational developer Ralf is an executive in the digital area of a large food retailer and has a close relationship with sustainable product innovations.
Their tireless curiosity and creativity to initiate new things that offer added social value have been well rewarded: the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture awarded the brand with the Bundespreis 2019: Zu gut für die Tonne!; a federal award that honors creative food savers who work with their ideas and a lot of passion to reduce the mountains of food waste that arise every day. In addition, the brand was recognized as one of 32 companies by the federal government as Culture- and Creative Pilots Germany (Kultur- und Kreativpiloten Deutschland). Finally, in 2020, Knärzje’s beer won the Green Product Award.
The beer is delivered climate-neutrally either as a 3, 6 or 12-pack and, in southwest Germany, it can also be purchased in stationary food retail stores. With their products, Dan and Ralf thrive to enable even more people beyond Frankfurt to enjoy their delicious and sustainable beer – and to do something good for the environment at the same time.
by Marie Klimczak