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Trend for multiple beer styles at odds with sustainability goals

The consumer trend for “variety over volume” is counter to the brewing sector’s efforts to become more sustainable, according to a new report.

The report, published by food and drink manufacturing consultancy NIRAS, outlines how the brewing industry has a “once in a generation” opportunity to meet demands for sustainability and yet also flags how creating multiple beers with short production runs drains energy resources.

In a deep dive into how to build sustainability into brewing, the contradictions were revealed highlighting how even though the regulations and consumer pressures have led to sustainability fast-becoming a “licence to operate”, rather than a “nice-to-have” novelty, beer trends for variety were contrary to the guidance.

Speaking about the issue, NIRAS vice president Jonas B. Borrit said: “Sustainability is clearly a key consideration for businesses across all sectors and for resource-intensive manufacturers like breweries, it’s no longer a nice to have, but is fast becoming a licence to operate. Stronger consumer appetite for variety over volume has undoubtedly created commercial opportunities for breweries, but producing up to 100 different varieties of beer in a large-scale plant means that short production runs will require more energy and water.”

The report highlighted how progress could be made if big breweries took note and led the way for others to follow.

Borrit explained: “Despite these challenges, there’s a once in a generation opportunity for large-scale brewers to set the standard for the industry” and pointed out There has been a huge shift in production processes and technologies to make it possible to drive down energy and water consumption, reduce waste and maximise efficiency. Embracing this progress will be key for the industry to continue to innovate on product development and growth, while meeting consumer expectations around variety and sustainability.”

The report also described how smaller brewers could face challenges in meeting sustainability goals as they grew due to bigger costs and changing regulations creating “obstacles”.

Borrit stated: “Some small breweries may have incorporated sustainability into their identity but now face the prospect of remaining sustainable as they scale up. Others may face limited resources and restricted facilities, meaning they are particularly vulnerable to changes in regulations and consumer expectations because it’s too costly to catch up.”

Borrit highlighted how “the large brewing groups have better access to loans and investment to drive the sustainability agenda” but hinted that the path towards sustainability was thwarted with challenges.

Despite this, Borrit identified how the time to act was now and added: “There’s no doubt there are a number of obstacles for breweries looking to become more sustainable, but it’s clear that the industry has a huge opportunity to engage the next generation of customers and make sure the industry is sustainable in every sense of the word.”

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