Molson Coors mulls UK network
Also a move to crossflow membrane filtration
Molson Coors has announced details regarding the completion of a five-year redevelopment of the Burton Brewery. Now larger questions are looming about shaping the brewer’s production platform in the British Isles in light of changing requirements.
A further £28 million is to be invested over the coming year, primarily to modernise the fermentation and filtration functions in the north brewery. There’ll be a change in technology used, with filtration being moved from diatomaceous earth to crossflow membrane filtration.
Andy Hadley, Molson Coors’ vice-president for UK & Ireland supply chain, European logistics & planning, thinks that crossflow filtration will be more reliable from a quality control perspective.
Hadley commented, “It’s not completely new technology, it’s been around for a while but it’s important that we update our facilities and make sure we’ve got the right choices made, the right investment choices to sustainably support the demand that we are seeing for our key brands.”
There’ll also be additional tanks installed to satisfy capacity requirements, with some dedicated to supporting “state-of-the-art” yeast management. In so doing there’s an opportunity to maximise site efficiencies.
“What we’re finding at the moment is our current yeast management facilities are just not very well located,” explained Hadley. “On the Burton site there are a number of old legacy areas and old legacy buildings and there’s a significant amount of complexity that we’re managing in the way that the site is laid out. So it just gives us an opportunity to simplify the site layout as well.”
No decisions have been made as yet in regards to suppliers. The tendering process is underway at the moment, with the project expected to be completed this time next year.
The additional spend brings to a total of £75 million that Molson Coors has invested in redeveloping Burton. The work follows on from a £21 million investment in a high-speed bottling line. The line, supplied by KHS, will be one of two in use at Burton and will handle the vast majority of bottling requirements; the other is a slower line from the long-shuttered Cape Hill brewery outside Birmingham.
The work is being undertaken in part to support Molson Coors biggest brands that are in growth, namely Carling, Coors Light and Cobra. But there are other requirements as well – a need for short-run capacity for craft beers, for instance.
Hadley commented, “I think we have to think quite carefully about what investment decisions we make to support what perhaps will be smaller runs, different types of brands which we think will have opportunities in the marketplace but probably aren’t best suited to Burton.”
Besides Burton, there are two other industrial scale Molson Coors breweries, at Alton in Hampshire and Tadcaster in North Yorkshire. There are no investment plans for these breweries at this time beyond “the normal sort of run rate.”
There are two recently acquired craft breweries, Sharp’s in Cornwall and Franciscan Wells outside Cork in Ireland. Both these breweries have benefitted from investments in capacity expansion and modernisation. And there is the tiny William Worthington brewery huddled alongside the massive Burton Brewery.
Beyond these considerations the end of the contract brewing relationship with Heineken beckons. According to Hadley, the Dutch brewer has served notice on the contract and production on their behalf will cease in April 2015. This will mean the loss of somewhere around two to three million barrels of beer annually.
An absence of investments plans and a reduction in brewing requirements at Burton raises an obvious question. Is it possible that the capacity at Alton, Tadcaster or perhaps both breweries will no longer be required?
To this question Hadley replied, “I certainly couldn’t make any comment as to whether there are going to be any future closures. We are reviewing the whole of the network at the moment and we’re in regular communication with our employees around that fact.
“Certainly no decisions have been made and as I’ve alluded to I think there are a couple of key dynamics … we’re growing our volumes on all of our key brands. Carling is in growth. Coors Light is in significant growth. Cobra’s in growth. The Sharp’s portfolio is doing incredibly well. So all of those brands are in growth and we’re seeing this emergence of interest in craft, so we’ve got a lot of dynamics to work through our future plans to make we’re set up with the right network for the future.”
All of Sharp’s brands remain brewed at Rock, and there are no plans to increase production of Doom Bar by brewing at Burton or elsewhere. Hadley said, “We’re not looking at that currently. Again, you know, never say never, but it’s not currently part of our thinking.”
But a possibility for brewing in the UK is Blue Moon, the Belgian-style wheat beer that is in growth. Currently it is brewed in Canada and shipped across the Atlantic.
“Certainly as that brand grows it becomes more and more unsustainable to continue to ship it in from Canada,” said Hadley. “It becomes a difficult logistical challenge. So again it’s not something we’ve decided on but it’s something that’s in the mix at the moment.”