Meet Tom Gosnell, Peckham’s bee-friendly mead-maker

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 (Paul Blundell)
(Paul Blundell)

‘This is where the really important stuff takes place,’ says Tom Gosnell, pointing at the row of giant stainless steel cubes along one wall of his mead brewery, Gosnells of London.

The retrofitted tanks once stored milk on a dairy farm; today they’re used for fermenting honey in Peckham. The result is an alcoholic drink dating back thousands of years that is currently going through something of a renaissance.

The whole place has an air of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory to it. In one corner, vats of honey butt up against a barrel of specialist Chardonnay mead. In another, huge conical flasks tower above a pile of watermelons. And amid the laptops and paperwork in the office is an enormous tank of vinegar and squares of kitchen roll covered in dried seeds.

The mead team (Paul Blundell)
The mead team (Paul Blundell)

‘Those are from the sunflowers in our mead garden,’ says Tom, 34, who had planned to keep bees and produce honey to use in the brewery until his team discovered London has an over-supply of bees and a lack of wild food for them.

In response, this year Gosnells planted a vast number of bee-friendly flowers in and around Peckham, including at the brewery itself. ‘We’re a business that relies on honey so we want to support the pollinators that make that possible. This summer you couldn’t move for honeybees and bumblebees out there.’

The garden is Gosnells’ latest sustainability initiative. When the company started in 2014, says Tom, environmental concerns weren’t a priority. But a combination of customer demand, cost-saving opportunities and the influence of a young, environmentally conscious team has led it to explore a whole range of practices, several of which are now central to how the business operates.

For Tom, going green is a no-brainer when it saves his company cash or costs the same. It gets more complicated once you’ve knocked out these easier wins, he says. But it doesn’t mean things that might cost the business upfront, such as switching to green energy or offsetting transport emissions, aren’t also going to get done, he adds, they just need more planning.

‘You can make some quite short-sighted decisions that won’t pay back in the longer term, for the company or for the environment. We want to produce delicious mead that we can feel proud of and that our customers want to buy. At the end of the day that means embedding sustainability in what we do, not just when it’s convenient.’

The info hive (Paul Blundell)
The info hive (Paul Blundell)

What are the benefits of going greener?

‘When we switched from glass bottles to cans we made our drinks lighter, saving an estimated 240kg of CO2 per New York-bound shipping container. That’s equal to the emissions soaked up by about 24 trees in a year. We also saw a 4 per cent uplift in revenue because we could fit more cans into a container.’

Has tech helped Gosnells to grow?

‘During the pandemic we really dialled up our web sales to make up for the massive impact Covid had on our B2B sales. That was huge in helping us get through a difficult year and a half. At the end of the day, tech is integral to everything we do.’

Growing your business through sustainability

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