As the benefits of sustainable practices become increasingly apparent, Park Street University is kicking off a new interview series featuring some of the beverage alcohol brands paving the way to a better future. The first interview is with Luis Nino Rivera, the Co-Founder of Mezcal Amaras, a brand whose philosophy is to promote artisanal mezcal with up to 20% of net sales for each bottle allocated to social and environmental responsibility.

Mezcal Amaras is currently in 24 markets and its portfolio boasts three brands—Amaras Logia, Amaras, and Verde Amaras—with seven different SKUs in total. It has planted more than 300 hectares of over ten species of agave and In 2021, the company grew 111% over the previous year. In this interview, Nino Rivera reveals the environmental, social, and economic considerations affecting the value of mezcal and touches on the KPIs that Mezcal Amaras uses to measure its impact.

What eco-friendly or sustainable practices does your company use?

We have a biological method of planting and maintenance of agave.

We do not deforest to plant agave. We work with communities that have a replanting program of trees for the cooking of the agave. We use 30% less wood for cooking agave. We use the waste of wood factories for distillation. We reuse our waste (vinasse and bagasse) for organic fertilizer and adobe bricks. We plant different species of agaves to maintain biodiversity.

We work with landowners to plant agave and agree that the port of the harvest is theirs to be paid at a certain price per KG additional to hiring them and their families to plant and clean the agave during the biological cycle of six years. We work with the WWF foundation to implement training and eco-technology for rainwater recollection, tree nurseries for reforestation, dry bathrooms, and biofactories to develop bio-nutrients and fertilizer

The transformation of agave to mezcal is 100% natural. No chemicals are used in the process. We have a Carbon Neutral certification since 2018. First Mexican spirit to have it.

What was your approach to sustainability when you first started your brand and has that developed over time?

Since the beginning, we knew we needed to have a vertically integrated project “from seed to sip.” The first initiatives were to plant agave and pay maestros a fair and on-time price. During the years our philosophy has evolved into a more holistic approach conscious of the ecological, social, and economic variables that affect the whole value chain of agave and mezcal. Adding more initiatives that can improve and maintain communities, process, waste treatment, wood, and water requirements as well as keeping the soil from erosion and malnutrition.

How do you measure the impact that your sustainable practices have made?

We have a list of KPIs that we measure each year from:

  • How many communities did we work with?
  • How many liters of vinasse did we reuse?
  • How many kilograms of bagasse did we reuse?
  • How many maestros mezcaleros did we work with?
  • How many direct jobs did we create?
  • How many indirect jobs did we create?
  • How much is the average income of agaveros and Maestros Mezcaleros?
  • How many hours of training did we give?
  • How many people did we train?
  • How many hectares of agave did we plant?
  • How many species of agave did we plant?
  • How many agaves vs. harvested did we plant?
  • How many carbon neutral bonds did we need to purchase?
  • How many women are involved in the agave and mezcal process?
  • How many women are in the company?
  • How many women are in managing positions?

How do you communicate your sustainable business practices to partners and consumers?

Internally we train the sales, marketing, and operations team to have the information for any meeting, sale, or event. To the bartenders and buyers, we communicate through a masterclass and sales pitch. To the end consumer, we have social media content, dinners and tastings as well as media articles.

What are some of the impacts your company has seen from being sustainability-focused?

One of the main impacts is the generation of commitment and belonging in the internal team. Also, it’s one of the main drivers to hire key positions that can be far from reach otherwise. With the trade, it can be the variable that shifts purchasing or pouring decisions. With the end consumer, when we express our philosophy in dinners it generates a genuine desire to learn more about the company and mezcal.

What sustainable practices would be the easiest for a beverage brand to begin adopting today?

Plant agave or your raw material without deforestation and biological maintenance. Have a natural process of transformation. Implement waste reuse from the beginning.

What are some sustainability misconceptions you’ve come across running your business?

We thought our holistic model would be very difficult to be profitable and scalable. Now we know how to scale better and add value to the brand. Another key point is that you can find formulas to increase the sustainability factor with less capital-intensive initiatives. You can make models that are auto-sufficient in time.

What do you think the industry at large can be doing better when it comes to sustainability efforts?

Waste treatment would be the most important one for the mezcal category. More efficient energy and raw material usage (wood, water, agave).

What are your plans for 2022?

Grow 61% vs 2021. Plant more than 200 hectares of agave. Work with 30 Maestros Mezcaleros. Add three communities more to the planting program. Develop more efficient ovens to use less wood. Develop a new source of energy for the distillation of our waste. Launch three new innovations of products to the portfolio.