Gregor Leckie, founder of Rapscallion Soda, explains to F&DT his ambition to put Scotland’s produce on the international stage and become carbon neutral by 2022
A lot of my inspiration for developing a sustainable drink brand came from working in Australia with the amazing team at The Greenhouse restaurant in Perth, Australia led by Joost Bakker.
Joost Bakker has been called a visionary, disruptor, environmental activist and ahead of his time. Over the last 25 years Bakker has highlighted the world’s wasteful ways using multiple platforms from art installations, floristry, design, architecture to bars and restaurants.
When I moved back to Scotland in 2015 the picture was very different, I didn’t see the connection being made between what is grown and what is consumed like I had in other travels in Europe.
Most soft drinks here use a loophole which allows people to label a product as 100 per cent natural when it hasn’t seen a fresh piece of fruit in its life. We started sourcing directly from the Glasgow Fruit Market in 2017, and by 2019 had built up our volumes to the point where I needed to deal directly with the farmers.
I did compromise in creating a ‘season proof’ range to get us through the cold Scottish winters. I had tried an Ayrshire Beetroot soda in our first few years throughout winter, but it didn’t take off.
On the map
My ambition now is to put Scotland’s produce on the international stage and become carbon neutral by 2022 with our 100 per cent renewably powered production site and electrically powered production machinery, divesting from fossil fuels.
A key part of our approach is to create soft drinks that are truly natural – that are free from preservatives and concentrates using the freshest, raw, flavoursome ingredients.
My background in wine, beer, spirits and cocktail bars had given me an understanding of techniques and concepts using alcohol and I began to translate that flavour capture into water.
I found out through trial and error that when you treat the produce and raw ingredients with care, you don’t need to rectify the liquid with artificial colours, flavours, aromas, preservatives or stabilisers.
Ultimately, when you don’t boil your ingredients beyond recognition, you don’t have to adulterate them with additives.
After 18 months of systematically testing each fruit, I found their ‘sweet spot’ and then the challenge was to scale the custom equipment needed to meet our growth needs. Stabilising such a fresh, delicate, highly pressurised liquid has been a real struggle, but we now use a gentle pasteurisation method commonly found in cider production to make sure our cans last out of the fridge without nasty preservatives. Long-term impact
We should be granted a 12-month BBE later this month, allowing us to grow further internationally. This is part of a familiar pattern: sustainability has been a huge part of our DNA since we started but putting the ideas into practice has been incredibly difficult on even a small commercial scale.
For us at Rapscallion, sustainability isn’t just about waste and energy reduction, it is also about building relationships with our suppliers and customers that have a long lasting, positive impact.
The easy part is finding the right suppliers round about us, from our ingredients to our boxes and paper tape, they can be found within four miles of our site.
The Rapscallion logo was designed to represent the circular economy and that approach has guided every decision since inception.
We use aluminium cans for their infinite recyclability potential and their light weight which puts less strain on our distribution network. To begin with, many businesses and consumers turned their nose up at a premium fresh product in a can, but now we can feel the tide turning.
In terms of waste, we trialled composting on our own allotment back in 2017, but unfortunately it didn’t comply with the stringent Scottish Environment Protection Agency regulations.
We utilise every part of the fruit in production to maximise flavour, and now redirect our fresh fruit ‘waste’ to R+D projects with other producers, and hopefully we can tie in with Tennent’s recent purchase of an anaerobic digester to omit methane emissions from our waste organic matter.
Our site in the Gorbals (Glasgow) is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy and we’re in the process of replacing our diesel van with an electric vehicle now that the prohibitive initial costs have come down.
Our fulfilment partners in the Tradeston area of Glasgow share the same ethos and have made huge inroads to completely remove harmful packaging from their whole supply chain.
Food grade carbon dioxide is often the byproduct of fertiliser production, but we started an exciting conversation with a Swiss company through Lockdown about implementing carbon capture technology when we are ready to jump to our next biggest production site.
Our unusable organic food waste is processed in Glasgow through a process of anaerobic digestion, thereby removing up to 90 per cent of our potential methane emissions.
Ultimately, we’re not trying to preach to people, and we are far from perfect and I think considering the current state of the world, there’s absolutely no harm in trying your hardest to work locally and think globally.