Beer lovers face bottle shortage as rising energy costs hit UK breweries

Beer drinkers could soon find it difficult to buy their favourite bottled beverage because of a shortage of glassware triggered by soaring energy costs, a food and drink wholesaler has warned.

Suppliers are already experiencing problems sourcing glassware as its production is energy intensive, pushing its price 80% higher over the past year. As a result, stocks have tumbled, according to Dunns Food and Drinks, one of Scotland’s largest wholesalers.

Glassware shortages could be soon be felt by the UK beer industry, said Julie Dunn, the operations director at the family-run wholesaler. “Our wine and spirits suppliers from around the globe are facing ongoing struggles that will have a knock-on effect,” she said. “As a result, there could be less variety in the bottled beers we see on UK shelves.”

She added that some brewers may be forced to switch to different containers for their products, which could push prices up for consumers at a time of rising food and drink inflation.

“Specialist bottles and glassware hold a very important place in the heritage of the beer industry and I expect that while some breweries will convert to cans to ensure consistent supply, others will look at this as devaluing the brand, so will inevitably pass the additional cost on to beer drinkers.”

The message follows a warning from the German beer industry, which has said its small and medium-sized breweries are likely to bear the brunt of glassware shortages.

Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the UK, and British consumers spent more than £7bn on the beverage in 2020.

Some Scottish brewers have already made the switch to cans to help keep a lid on rising packaging prices. Edinburgh-based Vault City Brewing said it would be selling almost all of its beers in cans instead of bottles from next month.

“We started introducing cans to our release schedule in January because of rising costs and challenges with availability,” said Steven Smith-Hay, the company’s co-founder. “This was initially just for our session sours and supermarket range, but because production prices are so high we’ve decided to make all our beers can-only from June, with the exception of a few special releases each year.”

Smith-Hay said the company was paying about 65p a bottle, representing a 30% increase in cost compared with six months ago. “If you think about the volume of beer we’re bottling even as a microbrewery, the costs really start to pile up. It’s just not viable to keep going in that direction.”

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