When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, but what do you do with a surplus of olives?
- Sydney bartender Jason Crawley created a cocktail syrup out of olive brine
- He used brine from an olive company in the Riverland region of South Australia
- The product has created extra revenue from a waste product for both companies
After draining jars of olives to use the brine for dirty martini cocktails, Sydney bartender Jason Crawley said he was left with dried up olives.
To solve this problem, the Simple Syrup co-founder contacted olive companies and farmers, asking for their surplus brine so he could create his own cocktail syrup.
“There was a product in the US I had heard of and tasted many years ago,” Mr Crawley said.
“I’d never really considered doing this in Australia until I saw the appetite firsthand for dirty martinis.”
Mr Crawley said he and his partner Caroline Jones sent more than 100 emails.
“The response rate was about 50–50,” he said.
“Some of them we didn’t hear back from, and some of them thought we were completely [absurd].”
Mr Crawley said he and Ms Jones “systematically sampled” about 24 different brines with half a dozen dry London-style gins.
The pair selected a green manzanilla brine from the award-winning South Australian company Viva Olives.
“Based on my 30 years in the industry, I took a leap of faith,” Mr Crawley said.
“And it seems to be working really well.”
An under-utilised product brings extra revenue
Viva Olives operations manager Darren McKenzie said he thought Mr Crawley’s request for olive brine was “a little strange”.
“But once he explained what it was intended for, it seemed to be a good fit,” he said.
Mr McKenzie said the brine order from Mr Crawley was for 1,000L, which was sent in a bladder form, like a wine cask.
He said this was the first time the Riverland-based company had sold the “under-utilised” by-product, and he was interested in the potential of growing that area of sales income.
“To have this as another untapped product sale option is great,” Mr McKenzie said.
“Not only as it’s a profitable form of extra revenue due to the low costs associated with producing it, but it also reduces waste.”
Mr McKenzie said the company normally used all the processing brine where they could in the repackaging of olives when dispatching them for sale.
“We are also looking at options to recycle and use the fermentation brine once again in the process,” he said.
Seeing waste as an opportunity
CSIRO innovation facilitator David Monck said agribusinesses were increasingly interested in creating by-products because of the rising cost and regulations surrounding waste disposal.
“If they can develop something that is value-added, they can get a second revenue stream that has more profit potential and can help balance out their risk,” he said.
Mr Monck has been providing support for food and agribusinesses to improve their operations and fight food waste.
“And then help incentivise them to take a leap and undertake a project by providing some funding.”
Mr Monck said finding a new use for olive brine was a good idea as growers and companies have faced challenges from the Environment Protection Authority for improper disposal.
“The regulatory authorities do not like brine or waste being put into sewage streams,” he said.
“They are putting pressure on [producers] to find other solutions, to filter the salt and other things out, which is a cost to the business.
“So, if they can work out ways to get someone to take [the brine] or develop it into something else, it saves them paying that money.”
Mr Monck said the growing health and wellbeing market also presented an opportunity to develop high-value-added functional ingredients and nutraceuticals from agriwaste streams.
“For example, there’s a local farmer who has about 60 tonnes of carrots a week that do not meet the supermarket’s criteria,” Mr Monck said.
“That often will find itself back on the land.
“This presents an opportunity to investigate the extraction of something like vitamin beta carotene and other carotenoids.”
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