In a recent article I discussed the opportunity of looking at what might be referred to as waste by-products of manufacturing your product or service and seeing if something new and valuable could be created from those leftovers. One of the examples I gave was of the humble Tater Tot which came into creation when some bright brain decided to collect the extra potato cuttings leftover from making french fries and form them into a new shape that could be marketed and sold as a unique new product.
I had another example to share in that article of a waste by-product becoming as popular (if not more popular) than that of the things that birthed it, but I didn’t want to dilute the article by piling on too much at once so I thought I’d save the example (frankly, my favorite example) for this article.
Rum was made from leftovers
Back in the 1600s when pirates and privateers were sailing the seas and discovering ways to make money from the things they found during their travels, the Caribbean islands were a rich source of sugarcane and plantations would exploit slave labor to process the sugarcane — turning the sugarcane juice into crystallized sugar granules that would be packaged up and exported for sale to other countries. After the processing was complete, there was a leftover think brown, syrupy residue that no one thought had any value — molasses.
The slaves were allowed to take this waste by-product and do what they wanted with it — one of which was to ferment the molasses which resulted in a heavy, dark, full-bodied alcoholic drink that we’ve come to know as rum.
Rum became a popular and plentiful drink, and a favorite of pirates and navy men alike. It had some healthful benefits, wouldn’t turn brackish like much of the water stored for voyage, and it could be used as a reward for the crewman.
The Royal Navy even began issuing a daily ration of rum to their sailors everyday around noon. A cry of “Up Spirits!” would be shouted and the crew would line up for their tot of rum (142 ml — roughly one-quarter of an imperial pint).
Tater Tots to Tots of Rum
How interesting that two items which became so favored by people would both be referred to as “tots” and have been brought into creation through the repurposing of what would have otherwise simply been discarded.
Black Tot Day
On July 31, 1970 the Royal Navy called “Up Spirits!” one last time to issue sailors their final ration of rum. With the evolution of ship technology as well as the increased deadliness of the weapons of warfare they transported, the Royal Navy decided it might not be a good idea in terms of safety to keep giving the guys in charge of looking after those items a big glass of rum every day which would potentially impair their better judgement and physical and mental response time. The day became known as Black Tot Day.
If you’re curious to learn more about how the rum ration came into being or how Pusser’s Rum actually became the de facto brand of rum for the British Navy (it’s pretty interesting!) then click here to visit the Pusser’s Rum history page on their website.
And just as people are still wondering what to do with a drunken sailor — don’t ever stop wondering what you can do to turn mistakes and waste into new ideas, new businesses, and new profits.