As the craft brewing industry grows, so do the options for running a successful brewing business. New equipment, better software, changing regulations and so on, all add new opportunities for a craft brewer. Even decisions that were essentially no-brainers are getting, if not more complicated, more strategic in nature. For example: the keg. The metal keg is by far the standard of the industry, almost an iconic symbol of beer delivery, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most economical route for a growing brewer.
A fleet of kegs is an investment just like any other piece of equipment in the brewhouse, and ownership of an investment carries inherent responsibilities. Property must be maintained, cleaned, stored and not lost. Many of these keg-owning responsibilities are no big deal for brewers, they are built into the operational plan, budgeted for and that’s that. But one-way kegs do remove a lot of these responsibilities and sometimes reduce overall expenses.
If the distance between the brewery and the bars is longer, then a one-way keg is a better bargain. The break-even point will vary with the individual situation. There are savings in transport – up to 25 percent on the way to the bar and 100 percent on the return trip. If the distances are shorter, and if the kegs are returned very frequently, then steel kegs can work out to be cheaper.
Reasons for Choosing the One-Way Keg Systems
For decades the beverage industry only used returnable steel kegs and was satisfied with this setup. But with one-way kegs, the material has of course been designed so that it can be fully recycled. Disposal couldn’t be easier. Once the pressure has been relieved, empty packs are simply squashed together and collected like any other plastic refuse. The biggest advantage of one-way kegs is that containers no longer need to be returned to the plant nor large quantities of kegs provided. This not only saves considerable investment costs but also a large amount on shipping, especially with exports. Market players such as KeyKeg and Petainer have introduced light-weight plastic kegs that holds 15 and 20 liters notch up just 250 grams of weight. This makes the one-way kegs much easier to handle during transportation and in the hospitality and retail trade. As the packaging is much lighter, about 4,000 liters more beverage can be loaded per truck.
In addition, a lot of the costs simply don’t arise here when one-way kegs are processed at a bottling plant. For instance, chemicals and usually between 10 and 14 liters of water are needed to wash the interior and exterior of a classic steel keg. This media is no longer consumed and keg washing technology can be completely done away with. The same goes for keg tracking systems. Keg repairs and the frequently bemoaned loss of returnable kegs are also no longer the subject of debate and the amount of warehouse space required for storage is also reduced.
Trend towards One-way Kegs
The steel keg is a popular container and many breweries have large keg fleets which they want to continue to use. However, it is expected that many companies will decide to replace their lost kegs with one-way kegs. Over the course of the next ten years it is projected that one-way kegs will make up about 20% of all kegs worldwide. There are just too many advantages to this system which neither the beverage industry nor retailers and the hospitality trade can ignore.
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