Dairy Distillery, producers of Vodkow vodka and cream liquors, says it has achieved carbon neutral production after four years in business.
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The Almonte-based company is dedicated to building a sustainable dairy value chain.
“We’re proud to work in such an amazing industry that celebrates farmers, their animals and the future of agriculture,” says co-founder Neal McCarten. “We’re building on our progress every day to improve our products and operations and find new ways to enhance sustainability.”
Why it matters: Dairy Distillery makes vodka from lactose using milk permeate, a byproduct of milk production.
After working for two years on a process to convert lactose into alcohol, Dairy Distillery opened its doors in eastern Ontario in November 2018. Fellow co-founder Omid McDonald worked with the University of Ottawa to develop the technology and fine tune the distillery process.
It uses the milk permeate that is separated during dairy processing and is typically discarded or used for animal feed. Once combined with a natural yeast that converts lactose sugars into alcohol, the resulting milk wine can be distilled into vodka.
Naturally lactose-free, Vodkow cream liquors are made with 100 per cent Canadian cream and sport the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Blue Cow logo, making it the first spirit product in Canada to have it.
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McCarten says the logo is a point of pride for Vodkow and a significant marketing advantage, helping to differentiate the product and gain new markets including the United States.
Since Vodkow is alcohol and shelf stable, and isn’t considered a food product, the company has successfully exported the drink to the U.S. using a California distributor.
Vodkow cream liquor and vodka is available in LCBO stores across Ontario. The products can also be ordered online with shipping throughout Canada.
After Ontario, Alberta is the company’s second strongest market, where select Sobeys stores carry the brand. As well, new Ontario alcohol sales and sampling regulations have opened marketing opportunities at consumer events and retail locations.
“More direct sales channels for spirits, like farmers markets, are also allowing us to engage new customers,” says McCarten. “Everyone loves to try a taste and it’s one of our most successful sales tactics.”
The company sources flavours for cream liquors close to home. Maple syrup, chocolate and coffee all come from local businesses in Almonte. The oranges used for their orange-flavoured liquor are ‘seconds’ or fruit that would otherwise be wasted.
Developing a new use for milk permeate was the first step to improving the product’s sustainability and producing the carbon neutral vodka.
“Our vodka has a low carbon footprint that we offset to make our Vodkow cream liquors carbon neutral,” says McCarten, adding that the firm uses Vodkow vodka as the base for all its cream liquors. “We upcycle 3.7 kilograms of milk permeate to make each bottle of Vodkow vodka (215 grams per 1.5 ounce serving).”
McCarten says the distilling process is key to a sustainable dairy value chain, but glass manufacturing is the single largest contributor to the carbon footprint of a bottle of vodka.
“Since the carbon footprint is proportional to the weight of the bottle and a bottle of Vodkow weighs, on average, 50 per cent less than other glass vodka bottles, our carbon footprint is smaller than other vodkas.”
A lighter bottle also means less glass ends up in landfills or recycling plants.
In 2019, Dairy Distillery performed a lifecycle analysis of Vodkow vodka’s carbon footprint in accordance with the ISO 14021 standard. It is one of only a few distilleries in Canada to publish a carbon assessment accounting for the carbon associated with all aspects of its process and report the carbon footprint per bottle: 1.56 kg of CO2.
“Sustainability is core to our product. We believe our carbon neutral vodka, lighter packaging and efficient production makes Vodkow cream liquors among the most sustainable on this planet,” says McCarten.