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Craft Beer Industry Favours Plastic

07 Nov 2016

Craft brewing has reshaped the brewing industry in the UK, and craft ales have an authenticity and individuality that consumers really respond to. However, that comes with a downside: craft brewers might get the kudos, but they don’t enjoy the economies of scale and wider margins of mass-produced beers.

But is that about to change? PET manufacturer Petainer have recently announced a product that they say is highly tailored to the craft beer market. It follows on from the PetainerKeg, an alternative to the steel keg that is lighter, cost-efficient and more sustainable as it is manufactured from recycled PET.

Is this the way ahead for small-scale craft brewers who want to get new products to new markets with less risk and a lower investment? Petainer certainly seem to think so: they’re reported to have invested heavily in the new product.

craft beer industry

Cutting Costs, Cutting Quality?

For small-scale craft breweries there’s an equation that endlessly needs to be balanced: how to deliver the same great product while keeping costs low? Could PET really be the answer? Plastic packaging, such as plastic pallets, plastic crates and plastic containers, has long been favoured by the food and beverage industry due to the increasing cost-efficiency, hygienic benefits and re-usability. The use of plastic pallets for storage is an easy win for cost savings in the craft beer industry.

But there are concerns about PET, a by-product of the petroleum industry, and whether it affects the quality of the ale – particularly if the packaging gets warm.

Customer Trust vs Cost-Efficiency

It may come down to whether customers are prepared to accept their bespoke brew in plastic containers. Even if a PET bottle were proven to be safe and not to compromise the quality of the beer inside, would a dedicated craft ale drinker buy it, and would that impact on consumer confidence across the industry?

Wide-scale uptake would depend on how the PET container was marketed, and would need to tap into ideas of sustainability. Not all craft and microbreweries have the option to recycle glass, but could consumers be encouraged to recycle their plastic empties? There’s certainly a crossover between the average craft ale drinker and concerns around environmentalism and sustainability. Handy recycling bins in pubs could be one possible solution.

Plastic Impacts Across the Industry

The use of plastic supports increased cost savings and increased margins across the food and beverage industry. Food packaging can prevent product deterioration, guard against biological and chemical interference and increase the quality and safety of food. In some instances, it has even been proved to cut food waste.

Packaging can be used to improve traceability, which could be of interest to the bespoke craft brewing industry, and prevents tampering to protect the integrity of the product. If the craft beer industry can be persuaded that the cost savings and other benefits of PET plastic packaging are worth the gamble, we could soon be sipping our ale from fully traceable and recyclable plastic bottles.

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