Feature Stories


Journey of Futurepreneur: Breer – How everyday situations inspired a growing sustainable movement in the beer industry

“Resources are getting used up very quickly and we want to start a sustainability revolution, where other startups like ourselves try to help make the world a better place for the next generation.” 

This is the cornerstone of Breer, (https://www.breer.org/)  a social enterprise that marries food waste mitigation with brewing beer. Four undergraduate students, Suyash (BBA Economics), Deevansh (BBA Marketing & Management),Naman (Business & Management) and Anushka from Engineering, united by their passion to make a sustainable change in the world, started Breer to provide an innovative solution to Hong Kong’s food waste problemspecifically leftover bread. 

Two seemingly unrelated incidents sparked this unusual enterprise. The four friends had stopped by a bakery, and as they purchased their late-night snacks, realized that food wastage was a much more serious problem than they initially thoughtHaving grown up valuing thrifty and economical uses of resources, the leftover loaves left them wondering how they can contribute to sustainable solution. A fortnight later, one of the four connected their bakery stop to the pint of beer in hand. “Wait, beer and bread have similar ingredients, is it possible to use the surplus bread to make beer?  

Their musings became manuscripts on researching brewing methods, the local market and supply chain, and implementation plans, cumulating in their win in the Enactus Social Entrepreneurship Competition 2019With the prize money, they put their plans into action, starting with experimentation of making test batches and reaching out to expert brewers and potential distribution points. With guidance from advisors at the HKUST Business School, they launched Breer as a social enterprise seeking to reduce food waste by using leftover bread to make craft beer. 

 (Suyash, co-founder, is sharing their food upcycling idea with customer)

Comprehensive support from the Business School

Thanks to the strong entrepreneurial support at HKUST, Breer’s many opportunities for development were accompanied by sound guidance and support from many places in HKUST. Internally, aside from receiving the Entrepreneurship Acceleration Fund (EAF) Grant to help them register their startupBusiness School faculty with extensive experience provided valuable guidance for branding, business development, and partnerships“We’ve had such extensive conversations with them that it’s gotten to the point where we can give them a call and have a quick chat to see what they feel about the latest going-ons.” Through the support of the MentorHub program, Business Alumni Committee community and the Entrepreneurship Centre, Breer also had many opportunities to showcase their productcollaborate with alumni passionate about entrepreneurship and connect with distribution partners. The team is very grateful to these communities for supporting their development through valuable advice on developing their startup and connecting them with key stakeholders and networks in the industry and startup network. 

Aside from an extensive network, the business core courses proved to be helpful for the young startup in building financial models, supply chain management and optimization, and preparing their product for launch. With the wholistic approach of business core courses and programs under the Business School in collaboration with HKUST’s other Schools, the team was equipped with a solid foundation for managing business in Hong Kong and confidence to approach veterans in the sustainability circuit with what Breer has to offer. Coupled with practical experience and experiential learning through group projects, Breer was armed with essential skills for working efficiently as a team, making decisions, and pursuing its development to the next milestone.  

Embracing challenges 

Like many businesses, especially in food and beverage industry, Breer faced its own share of challenges due to COVID-19. “The first and foremost difficulty was the fact that the protests and COVID hit Hong Kong, and all four of us ended up leaving Hong Kong due to either of these problems. Operating online, especially during COVID times was very hard. Building and networking with the stakeholders we work with today wasn’t easy, Breer said. Additionally, due to social gathering restrictions to stamp out the outbreaks, it wasn’t an ideal time to launch Breer into the weakening bars and restaurants market. “We used the COVID-19 times to participate in various competitions, raise funds for ourselves, and test the product, doing multiple brews. 

Starting a new enterprise as full-time students in a prestigious university is no small feat. Once they officially registered as a startup, their workload and related stakeholders increased, splitting their lives into two tangents – Breer and typical student life – which they manage with considerable finesse and motivation to see their enterprise for social change breakthrough. “HKUST has a pretty competitive atmosphere,” Deevansh said, “but with support from the Entrepreneurship Centre, alongside the different professors, the alumni community, the Business School, and the sustainability unit encouraging us, we are constantly motivated to push ourselves to the next milestone we wish to achieve.”  

Despite having only one in-person meeting as a team before the protests and pandemic, the strength of the team persevered, covering for each other when academic workload peaked and motivation dipped. Having been friends before founding Breer, the team of four operate in an open culture of honesty and mutual support, discussing potential difficulties to plan their next steps. When asked about how to balance being both friends and colleagues, the team “leveraged the friend part to be a better colleague” through understanding each other’s strengths, dividing the workload accordingly, supporting busy teammates, and avoiding business matters when they casually hang out.  

 (Breer's pilot batch brewed with unsold and uneaten sourdough and rye collected from bakeries in Hong Kong)

Now, as they brew their first big batch, Breer plans for a soft launch in early 2021, hoping to expand their operational scale and distribution within Hong Kong before potentially expanding overseas. Busy with research to expand their product line and optimize their brewing and distribution process, Breer plans to collaborate with more bakeries, restaurants and bar groups to get their product out on the market. “We hope to make Breer the beer of choice for consumers,” the co-founders said 

As for advice for those thinking about starting their own business, the team spoke passionately. “Only pursue ideas or products which genuinely interest you,” Deevansh said. “Leverage your strengths and outsource your weaknesses,” Suyash added. And of course, “Don’t feel any hesitation in reaching out to everyone who can help, you can never know what friendship develops to become a potential partnership.” Alongside people with fresh perspectives and unique strengths, Breer is confident that they will be able to make a sustainable change to the beer industry and community. 

 (Breer in pop-up store)