Andrew Brewer: The new distribution tipping point

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5th July, 2019 by db_staff

Attending the recent Indianapolis Coffee Fest felt like stepping back in time when micro-breweries first started emerging, writes Andrew Brewer of plastic keg specialist Petainer…

Andrew Brewer, Americas Technical Director for Petainer.

The fact that cold-brew coffee is finally gaining some well deserved traction marks an important turning point in the coffee sector’s lifecycle.

Now that quality coffee has gone mass market it is a natural evolution for speciality coffee to start spreading in popularity as consumers look to broaden their coffee palate.

However, in order to make this a true ready to drink (RTD) product the missing link has to do with storage and distribution.

It was not that long ago that micro-breweries faced similar challenges which led them to revise the game-changing strategies they would need to adopt to increase their market share. Up until then these had predominantly focused on developing new and unusual flavours, innovative branding and packaging, through to re-shaping the actual beer tasting experience.

With the advent of cold-brew, the coffee sector is now facing the same dilemma. The logistical side of the beverage’s journey to the consumer’s cup is now very much in the spotlight. Having spent time refining their unique blend of cold-brew, coffee makers now need to ensure it is safely stored, transported and delivered with no risk to the quality or taste of their product.

Working closely with beverage producers for over 35 years has taught us one vital lesson; effectively managing on-going change and remaining at least one step ahead of the competition is crucial to a thriving organisation.

Which is why the advent of intensely flavoured beers, Kombucha and now cold-brew coffee are the drivers to developing a ready-to-use, light weight, one-way keg alternative to the traditional steel.

Steel kegs have of course been around since the dawn of time, and few have thought to challenge them until recently. Yet a cumbersome steel keg comes with its own handling issues which start with the need to thoroughly clean them to remove all traces of the last beverage they were transporting.

In fact steel kegs should be completely overhauled at least every 5 years yet very few are even tagged and most are continuously used until they are too damaged to continue.

Over the last few years a range of one-way kegs have started to appear on the market. As a disruptor in a well-established sector they have had their fair share of teething problems, yet this has resulted in the serious contenders fine-tuning their offering.

Since one-way kegs are also one-time use, they don’t require cleaning, maintenance or storage after use. It takes about 11 litres of water to wash one steel keg not to mention the chemicals and energy outlay to properly sterilise them. Any cold-brew producer who does not want to invest in either a keg cleaning system, or a stainless steel fleet will appreciate this.

However to offer true differentiation the PET keg has had to re-write the storing and transportation rule book. There now exists a one-way keg that can either be delivered purged and ready to fill or blown and assembled locally, on or off the filling line.

Weighing in at only 10% of the standard steel keg the shipping cost is reduced as is the carbon footprint. It can be totally dis-assembled and all its component parts are either re-usable or totally recyclable. Its chimes, which comprise around 60% of the total weight of the product, are re-usable and pack down to a small return pack size alleviating the need for recycling altogether and bringing economic savings to the supply chain.

The keg itself can be depressurised, crushed and recycled. This means there are no storage, fleet or maintenance issues, neither the usual 20% loss of steel kegs CFO’s have to somehow deal with every year.

Getting back to the unique taste of the cold-brew inside, cutting-edge barrier technology and heightened UV and light protection are just two of the factors that ensure the beverage maintains its integrity and has the same shelf-life as its steel sibling, even at higher temperatures. In fact an independent expert panel ran a blind test over a 12 month period to ensure the taste profile remained the same.

There is no doubt that one-way kegs are set to flip fleet management on its head. At a time when sustainability is on everyone’s mind it might at first appear to be a throw-away option that does not tick the ecological box. Yet by reducing the carbon footprint and the high-energy requirement of cleaning alone this solution is already a greener option.

Furthermore these new-age kegs are easy to brand, use standard keg valve fittings, fit on the same production line, can be filled upright or inverted, enable operators to actually see the beverage in the keg through to reduce foaming and increase speed of filling. You can start to see why they are gaining traction.

In this era of start-up cold-brew producers they offer the flexibility to test the market with less initial investment. As we continue to launch new, unusual beverages and develop innovative ways of experiencing them, these one way kegs could be the missing link to propel newcomers into the next stage of growth. END

About Petainer:

Petainer is a leader in plastic container innovation. They set the benchmark in sustainable high performance packaging across dozens of industries and sectors worldwide.

Following the success of their 20L one-way PET kegs, which came second in the Best New Product Awards in the non-consumable products category at the Indianapolis Coffee Fest, they have also launched the 30L Hybrid which is keg-line compatible and can be delivered in preform kits.

These innovative kegs have patented chimes made of regrind material and are easily dis-assembled for recycling.

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