Citizen Collective

More Taste, Less Waste

Citizen 1


Ken Holley

Ken Holley


University of Otago

University of Otago


Joe Cooper

Joe Cooper

Global Goals

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 17. Partnerships for the Goals

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Donald Shepherd is a man on a mission to upcycle food, which would otherwise be wasted, into artisan food and drink.

His business brings together great, like-minds to collaborate on circularity issues—in particular, how to capture food that would otherwise be wasted and turn it into nutritional food and beverage options. Shepard's collaborative approach has led to innovative solutions for bread waste and now cherries. Having proven the model, there are more opportunities ahead for Citizen Collective, particularly in the horticultural sector, and the business is positioned to scale rapidly.

Citizen Collective is contributing to a number of Sustainable Development Goals (8. Economic growth, 9. Innovation, and 17. Partnerships for the goals), but primarily 12. Responsible production and consumption. By working with producers, they contribute to decreasing our ecological footprint by diverting food products that cannot be consumed and reconstituting them into new, desirable food and beverage products.


At a concept level, Shepard's innovation was inspired by his work in the UK and Europe with famous Italian chef Massimo Bottura.

The innovation in New Zealand kicked off using Shepard's experience with the Toast Ale model from the UK as a launching pad—taking bread from supermarkets near its "use-by" date because it cannot be sold and would otherwise be dumped.

Phone calls to Goodman Fielder provided a source of raw material. Shepard then needed a brewer, so he cold-called Mike Sutherland from Sawmill Brewery in Matakana (north of Auckland). Shepard's affinity to sustainable organisations influenced him to choose Sutherland. While he didn't know Sutherland, he knew Sawmill was a B Corp. that made great beer. A great partnership was formed producing Citizen beers, which use one-third of the amount of malt normally used for the same volume of beer production.

This is where the "collective" concept started, another key part of the innovation formula that makes Citizen Collective special—working in partnership to achieve sustainable goals.

Next, "how to turn spent grain, a hot, sticky mess, into a dry product that could be processed into a flour" to produce great bread. The path to that solution came from Kiwi investors Janene and James Draper from Farro Fresh.

It's no surprise that you will find Citizen Collective beer in Farro Fresh. In 2006, Janene and James Draper created a retail space that showcased the very best and finest of New Zealand food. The Drapers introduced Shepard to Andrew Fearnside at Wild Wheat.

Meanwhile, leveraging local smart food tech people, Shepard had cracked the creation of the flour; Citizen Malty Spent-Grain Sourdough was born and the circle was complete.

Shepard's bread solution developed during the NZ Covid lockdown period, which presented economic limitations and challenges to collaboration and business evolution. However, the process of inspiring others, using their expertise, and sharing the gains, gave him the innovative model that would scale to other food waste products.

Shepard always knew "he would move into other areas". The other person on this innovative team was Ben Bayly, joint founder, award-winning chef and restaurateur. Based on the success of Citizen Collective in beer and bread, Bayly was contacted by the NZ Cherry Cooperative to see if together with Bayly's creative genius and Shepard's passion to reduce food waste, they could find an alternative to ploughing-in cherries that don't make the grade every year.

Teaming with Morningcider, the Citizen X Cherry Bomb Cider was the first product; and it was quickly followed by a collaboration with New Zealand icon BurgerFuel to create the Citizen Cherry Cola.

More Taste, Less Waste


While living (with his wife and 3 kids) and working in the UK at Fisher & Paykel Appliances, Shepard was "honoured to work with the famous Italian chef Massimo Bottura".

In 2015, in conjunction with the EXPO Milan, Massimo carried out a collaborative project with Caritas Ambrosiana: the Refettorio Ambrosiano. This project which welcomed people in need, allowed the recovery of about fifteen tons of food surplus resulting from the EXPO with the help of more than fifty chefs. The Refettorio Ambrosiano is still in practice today, reflecting the Milan Charter and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Following the project launched at the Milan Expo, Massimo initiated “Reffetto-Rio,” aimed at turning surplus food from the Olympic Village during the Rio Olympics into meals for people in need.

In September 2020, Massimo Bottura was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) during the inaugural International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.

Shepard's relationship with Massimo grew and lead to his involvement in the setup of the Refactorio in London, which saved 25,360kg of food from landfill in 2021.

Shepard's involvement with Massimo and the Refactorio initiatives was his "light bulb moment". He grew up in an intensive dairy farming operation and his experiences lead him to look at a new venture on the family's return to New Zealand.

Shepard believes that the business is now ready to "move from niche ideas to solving food waste problems at scale".

Overall impact

Nine percent of New Zealand's biogenic methane emissions and 4% of our total greenhouse gas emissions are from food and organic waste.

Of food types wasted in New Zealand, the Love Food Hate Waste initiative puts bread at number 1—an estimated cost of $62m.

Research from Food Waste Innovation, a University of Otago research theme, brings together metrics and food research. It found that there is significant waste throughout the food chain in New Zealand and that there are many opportunities to tackle the problem, reducing waste and the associated greenhouse gases produced, while generating positive outcomes: social (employment and food availability) and business (attractive to research and investment dollars).

Relevant to the two product innovations:

It is estimated that approximately 23,000 Tonnes (i.e. 5 kg/capita/year) of food waste, excluding food donated to humans or as animal feed, are generated per annum by the New Zealand retail sector. Of that, 21% was made up of bakery waste. “Over 20m loaves of bread, domestically, are wasted every year” (Shepard).

It is this waste that Citizen Collective has reduced: “We have upcycled circa 500k slices of bread to date” (Shepard via text 9/5/2023).

It is estimated that 8,000 Tonnes of cherry waste is produced in New Zealand every year.

Citizen Collective claims to have saved over 1.5m cherries to date.

Outside of the product/upcycling aspect of innovation, equally important has been the values-driven approach of the team that is the Collective: “We are about working with people who share our values and are looking to make a real positive change, with people who are passionate about food and beverages and making it in a way that is low impact, high quality, really tasty product. It is about the people as much as the product”.

Business benefit

Because of the success of the initial products (beer and bread) and the respected people behind it, others with similar values, looking to make a difference have been drawn to Citizen Collective through its products, awards and associations with national initiatives.

It is the success of the shared vision and ability to execute that has drawn investments benefiting the business, enabling them to expand into other products and secure its first export order.

While it has been tough launching during Covid, momentum and success have given Citizen Collective and its investors confidence that the business model is scalable and that they know how to leverage:

  • food science research (the how),
  • primary producer bodies (sources of waste),
  • chefs (bringing the waste produce and science together into attractive products),
  • manufacturing (producing the products), and
  • distribution channels (extending brand lines and introducing new products with an important message),

all in a way that benefits all parties—the Collective.

Social and environmental benefit

First and foremost, we have established that initiatives that reduce waste have a positive environmental impact that everyone shares as indirect beneficiaries. If these initiatives can be incorporated into a “successful “ business model, one that generates positive cash flow, this can generate direct (within the enterprise) and indirect employment (within the supply chain). To date, this has been the experience with Citizen Collective in New Zealand. With it growing to its first export order, it has potential economic benefits outside New Zealand, but directly impacts the New Zealand economy (balance of payments).

However, at its very core, the passion and philosophy of gathering like-minded individuals with complementary skills to tackle the problem of food waste and then demonstrating success to the wider community; locally within the greater Auckland region; to the Cherry Collective in Central Otago; to BurgerFuel customers globally (consuming cherry cola and other products derived through collaboration with the Citizen Collective) benefits each party, the economy and the climate. It nudges society to a more sustainable existence, through conscious consumer choices or encouraging others to invest, by simply demonstrating success.

This is reflected in the way Citizen Collective has gathered awards and recognition for its efforts, specifically highlighted by the Ministry for the Environment for social and economic benefits.

Other recognition includes:

  • 2021: winning the Innovation Award at Tamaki Makaurau Zero Waste Awards and Going Circular Award at the Sustainable Business Network Awards.
  • 2021: Sustainable Network Going Circular award finalist.
  • 2022: winning in partnership with With Wild and BurgerFuel, Communicating Impact at the Sustainable Business Network Awards.
  • 2022: Tamaki Makaurau Zero Waste Awards - Innovation / Anga whakamau winners.

Success sours success; Shepard has extended his portfolio of doing good with others via Wild With, bringing premium products from nature through active participation in efforts to protect Aoteoroa’s precious flora, fauna and ecosystems. Respecting and honouring wild animals culled as part of conservation efforts by acknowledging them as a valuable food resource.


Donald Shepherd, Co-Founder

Photo of interviewee

Business information

Citizen Collective

Citizen Collective

Auckland, Auckland, NZ
Business Website:
Year Founded: 2020
Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Citizen is a new kind of food producer.

We’re a collective of chefs, brewers, bakers and innovators who want to reduce food and resource waste.

We rescue unloved surplus foods and re-work them into delicious, low-impact food and drink.

Our first products are beer, made with surplus bread and sourdough, made with our brew mash spent grain, and pressed malt liquid.