The amber liquid is turning green - just check out Stella and Adnams. But does green beer make sense? M Institute co-founder Jyoti Banerjee investigates the inside story and discovers how one medium enterprise company is reaping business benefits from green beer.
Less glass. Less CO2 emissions.
The latest advertisement hoarding from Stella Artois features the beer company’s new lightweight bottle. As the Stella ad claims, “every one of our 250 million lightweight bottles contains less glass to help reduce CO2 emissions.”
I think it’s great when household names like Stella believe in sustainability to such an extent that they can focus an entire ad campaign on just this one message of lightweight bottles. Customers today like to know that their supplier has done what is possible to reduce the environmental impacts related to their purchases.
So well done, Stella, for taking the trouble to lower the weight of your highest selling bottle by 7%. Apart from the citizenship aspect, this sort of environmental initiative makes great business sense too. A lighter bottle is cheaper to transport and needs less energy to make.
When I saw the Stella ad, I was reminded of another beer company that had made some serious inroads into improving its environmental performance: Adnams. Now Adnams is a much smaller business than Stella – in fact, it’s clearly in the medium enterprise camp with revenues around £50m annually. Adnams was the first to bring out carbon-neutral beer, an altogether deeper initiative than making lighter glass bottles. Every aspect of the company’s processes had to be re-assessed to make East Green, the world’s first carbon-neutral beer.
Here’s what I learned about the business end of sustainable beer production, listening to Andy Wood, managing director of Adnams, talk about East Green:
• Adnams picked the 12 farms closest to the brewery (out of 40 farms altogether) to supply the hops in order to lower carbon miles
• Boadicea Hops is a dwarf hops variety used in East Green as it needs less oil-based pesticides
• The beer is lightly malted, rather than the usual malting process, in order to save energy
• The East Green bottle is a third lighter than the normal Adnams bottle
• The brewhouse is energy-efficient. The storage facility uses a natural roof which takes 100 tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere annually, and needs no artificial heating or cooling to maintain temperature to within 2 degrees centigrade
• Gray water recycling enables Adnams to have the lowest water consumption per pint of beer produced: 3.1 versus an industry average of 8
Adnams does not stop at green production of beer. In its hotels, it has replaced patio heaters with blankets – I wonder if the customers like this touch-feely approach…
Plus, the company was looking at its waste streams so that they could be used, via anaerobic digestion, to produce biogas for energy to be put into the grid, and to produce nutrition provided back to Adnams farm suppliers.
Clearly, being green is not trivial but the impacts are hugely significant, in business terms as well as for the sake of our beloved blue planet. And it’s great seeing a medium enterprise at the forefront of this sort of thinking.
What does carbon-neutral beer taste like? Well, I am not a beer man myself – so why don’t you check it out for yourself and let me know?