Marie Claire Sustainability Awards 2021: Food & Drink Winners

sustainability awards 2021

Did you know that food production is the single greatest impact humans have on the planet?

From soil depletion and food waste to dizzying greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, it's clear that our current food system is in urgent need of repair.

The winners in the Food & Drinks category of the first-ever Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards are industry change-makers and disruptors – brands that recognise amazing foods and drinks shouldn't come at the cost of the planet. Be warned: you might not want to read about them on an empty stomach, though.

Here are the Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards Food & Drinks winners...

Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards Food & Drinks winners

Best Sustainable Chocolate

Winner: Original Beans

Best Chocolate Initiative Winner: Original Beans

Praised by Sustainability Awards judge and founder of Bettina's Kitchen Bettina Campolucci Bordi for its "great story from bean to bar", Original Beans is a chocolate brand intent on making a difference.

With the knowledge that centuries of colonial exploitation and decades of armed conflict have made Eastern Congo one of the most hostile places in the world to live as a woman, in 2016 Original Beans founded the world's first women's cacao cooperative, The Femmes de Virunga. Aimed at empowering women in the DRC, this project has enabled women to earn their household an income and establish their position in the sector through the sustainable cultivation of cacao.

Financial support from DFID UK, Ashden Trust, and Giving Wings and Futura Foundation has also allowed the brand to empower women through literary courses, leadership trainings, a women-directed local radio programme, and various other entrepreneurial activities – all while creating some of the most delicious chocolate around.

If you haven't already tried the brand's Femmes de Virunga 55% chocolate bar, we'd advise you to get in on the action, stat.

Best Ethical Alcohol Brand

Winner: Greensand Ridge Distillery

Best Ethical Alcohol Initiative Winner: Greensand Ridge

Greensand Ridge Distillery is the first carbon-neutral distillery in the UK – a remarkable feat, given that energy and water use are two of the hardest things for a small distillery like theirs to mitigate.

Praised by Grace Beverley, MC Sustainability Awards judge and founder and CEO of TALA, for being "a great example of a business model that sets out to disrupt the norm", Greensand Ridge is living proof that even small distilleries can operate sustainably. "Why should distilleries operate unsustainably when they can do so much better, as demonstrated by Greensand Ridge?" asks Beverley.

By using 100% renewable power, the brand aims to be plastic-, chemical- and waste-free in all distillery operations – and working with farmers and food producers to buy quality surplus or by-product produce for its spirits – Greensand Ridge is taking the alcohol industry's sustainability problem into its own hands.

Highly commended: Avallen

Best Ethical Brand

Winner: Dhow Nature Foods

Best Ethical Initiative Winner: Dhow Nature Foods

Sustainability is in the DNA of Dhow Nature Foods. The East Africa-inspired health food label was founded on a love for the environment, and now gives as much back to the farming communities it works with as it does the earth from where it sources its produce.

The brand's regenerative permaculture farming practice ensures the maintenance of a natural ecosystem, which, in turn, curtails mass deforestation. Meanwhile, throughout its manufacturing process, all of Dhow's nutrient-dense foods are packed in 100% compostable material.

Not only that, but the brand is committed to adding value to the agricultural sector in Tanzania too – educating the next generation about the importance of organic agriculture for the wellbeing of both planet and people.

The Sustainability Awards judges were impressed by Dhow's ethical values, with Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability & Relationships Editor Ally Head commenting: "I love the sound of their regenerative permaculture farming practice, which they say ensures the maintenance of a natural ecosystem within the farm to let plants thrive without the need for mass deforestation. They've made clear strives towards implementing positive social impact too."

Highly commended: The Ethical Butcher

Highly commended: Belu

Best Sustainable Food-delivery Brand

Winner: DabbaDrop

Best Sustainable Food Delivery Initiative Winner: Dabba Drop

DabbaDrop is a takeaway business like no other. Adopting the ethos of planet before profit, DabbaDrop is London's first plastic and emissions-free takeaway subscription service – promising minimal food waste, reusable packaging, emissions-free delivery and some of the best vegan food we've ever eaten.

Founded by neighbours and friends Anshu and Renee, DabbaDrop takes inspiration from the Indian Dabbawalla delivery system, serving wholesome vegan curries in stainless-steel tiffin containers that are delivered by bicycle. Despite being less than three years old, DabbaDrop has already made more than 15,000 miles worth of emission-free deliveries. Although it currently only delivers to various parts of north, east and south London, the founders are hoping to expand across most parts of the city in the next year.

"This is a great idea," says MC Sustainability Awards judge and founder of Good Business Giles Gibbons. "Well executed, and proof that you can deliver healthy, fresh food in a zero-waste, zero-carbon system."

Highly commended: Milk & More

Best Sustainable Packaging

Winner: Minor Figures – Oat M*lk Refill Stations

Best Sustainable Packaging Winner: Minor Figures Refill Stations

Lauded as "brilliant" by Sara Vaughan, Global Chief Purpose & Sustainability Advisor to Marie Claire International, Minor Figures' Oat Refill Stations are the first of their kind in the UK. With 100 refill stations in stores across the nation, this beloved new-gen brand invites customers to get their oat-milk fix in the most sustainable way possible: without waste and without packaging.

By offering an alternative to traditional plant-based milk packaging, Minor Figures has so far helped save more than 58,480 cartons from entering the supply chain – with plenty more set to follow in the future. The carbon impact of its pioneering refill format, meanwhile, is an incredible 48.6% reduction in carbon emissions compared to your typical Tetra Pak packaging.

As the first UK-based dairy alternative brand to have launched into the refill space, something tells us that Minor Figures is just getting started when it comes to thinking up sustainable new ways of doing business.

Highly commended: Milk & More

Best Vegan Brand

Winner: allplants

Best Vegan Brand Winner: allplants

Can't muster the energy to cook? We're totally with you on that one. But with many meal delivery services offering vegan options that are little more than an afterthought, sometimes the faff of grocery shopping, cooking and washing up can seem like the only way for vegans to eat well.

Enter: allplants. In just four years, allplants has grown to become the number one plant-based brand in the UK – not bad, considering it started life as a supper club for friends at the founder's kitchen table. Touted as "a super choice for those looking for ease of preparation and a tasty meal" by MC Sustainability Awards judge and PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk, allplants takes the perceived dedication and effort out of switching to a plant-based diet by offering nutritionally balanced, healthy, chef-made vegan meals that can be frozen and heated up at your convenience.

Oh, and it's also a certified B Corp – meaning the brand not only upholds the highest environmental standards, but the highest ethical and social ones, too.

Highly commended: Milliways

Best Zero-waste Brand

Winner: Too Good To Go

Best Zero Food Waste Initiative Winner: Too Good To Go

Did you know that if food waste was a country, it'd be the third largest emitter of global greenhouse gasses after the US and China? Yep, each year a staggering 10 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK – so much that environmental nonprofit Project Drawdown has highlighted reducing food waste as the most impactful action an individual can take against climate change.

That's where Too Good To Go comes in. A social impact company and certified B Corporation, Too Good To Go's free-to-download app connects people with surplus food from restaurants, cafes, bakeries and grocery retailers to ensure that delicious food doesn't go to waste.

With a global community of 38 million customers, Too Good To Go has saved more than 75 million meals since launching in 2016 – that's an incredible 187,500 tonnes of CO2e. On a mission to make fighting food waste easy and accessible to everyone, picking up just one of Too Good To Go's aptly named Magic Bags saves the same amount of CO2e produced from charging a smartphone 422 times.

"This is exactly the type of innovation we need: using tech for good to solve a waste problem simply by creating a new link in the logistical chain and diverting food from the landfill," says Sustainability Awards judge and founder of Gen E Kristen Kammerer. Delicious leftovers with a positive impact? You heard it here first.

Highly commended: Kitche

Marie Claire UK assumes no responsibility or liability for any factual errors or omissions in the content of this post. The claims contained have been provided by the winning brands and published in good faith.

Kate McCusker

Kate McCusker is a freelance writer at Marie Claire UK, having joined the team in 2019. She studied fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins, and her byline has also appeared in Dezeen, British Vogue, The Times and woman&home. In no particular order, her big loves are: design, good fiction, bad reality shows and the risible interiors of celebrity houses.