Beer is regarded as a pretty robust product. There is no real problem with it sitting in bottles and cans on the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores at room temperature for some time. For big branded lagers this is probably fine but for an increasing amount of specialist craft beers this is an issue.
As with many food and drink products today the supply chains have been coming under question for various reasons. For beer it is no different and it is coming under scrutiny because of a lack of refrigeration in the supply chain that takes the packaged beer from brewer to consumer.
To have a cold chain in place whereby the beer is always chilled is very much the situation in the US where craft brewers insist on such a supply chain in order to ensure the quality of their product is maintained once it leaves their premises.
The subtlety of the hops and other delicate ingredients in the beer can only be preserved if it is kept chilled throughout its life. For this reason certain US brewers like Odell and Great Divide have stopped selling into the UK market.
The increased recognition of the need for a chilled supply chain (a cold chain) in the UK is being fuelled by a combination of better quality craft brewers emerging and more discerning beer drinkers. Looking to address this situation is specialist beer retailer and bar operator The Bottle Shop.
As both an importer of US beer into the UK and a distributor/wholesaler within the UK market for the likes of Cloudwater, Brew By Numbers and Magic Rock the founder of The Bottle Shop Andrew Morgan is among the first people to acknowledge that the supply chain situation in the UK needs sorting out.
His plan is to set up the first refrigerated supply chain for beer, which involves The Bottle Shop investing in a fully refrigerated warehouse and transport capabilities. This will ensure no beer passing through the business will be anything other than at a chilled temperature.
To fund this initiative – and to also help the business add two more small retail outlets in London – The Bottle Shop is in the middle of a crowd-funding exercise that Morgan hopes will bring in £350,000. For this he is giving up approximately 10% of the equity in the business. (Fuller details here).
The new cold chain will help differentiate the business from other craft beer specialists in the market and undoubtedly place it in a strong position to secure the best beers from top brewers who are becoming increasingly concerned about their products reaching the consumer in poor condition.
Morgan’s belief is that the impact on the market of beers that have remained chilled in the supply chain will result in drinkers being increasingly deterred from buying bottles and cans that have been sitting around on supermarket shelves at far too warm a temperature.
The gradual shift by consumers towards freshness, provenance, terroir and a higher quality of ingredients will mean more initiatives like the cold chain for beer become a feature in the retail industry.
Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider