For centuries, beer has been one of the most favourite beverages of people from across the world. However, the journey of beer from the pastures to the pint is quite an interesting one. It involves a set of processes that brings the frothy cold beverage right on your table. Last Friday, on the 6th of August, beer enthusiasts from all over the world, celebrated International Beer Day. On this occasion, we have decided to publish a special post on the beer supply chain. Keep reading to find out the journey of this popular beverage and the challenges it involves for the freight forwarding industry.
A bit about the International Beer Day
Since 2007, beer lovers from all over the world have been celebrating International Beer Day on the first Friday of August. Beer enthusiasts from over 80 countries commemorate their love for this popular beverage on this day when celebrants get together and buy each other drinks. The three express objectives of International Beer Day are:
- Getting together with people and sip on great beer
- Commemorating those people who brew, distribute and serve the beer
- To cherish the beer from different countries and thus bring people closer
The logistics of beer
All the elements of the logistics of beer come with a unique set of challenges. For example, during the peak of the pandemic, the beer supply chain was somewhat disrupted and the freight forwarding industry is still working under considerable pressure to keep the supply of beer intact. This is why freight forwarders specializing in moving beer have to be agile and flexible to keep up with the changes and challenges. Being a sensitive product, it requires utmost care while handling its transit. To this end, the industry in collaboration with the breweries have come up with several safeguards. This ensures that the beer reaches its destination in intact condition.
The journey of beer
The journey of beer from the fields to the bar consists of several steps such as sourcing raw materials, bringing it to the production unit, brewing packaging, and final delivery to the beer lovers. It goes without saying that the first and last steps in the beer manufacturing process are entirely in the hands of the logistics companies. The beer supply chain is a complex one involving multiple members like growers, brewers, distributors, and retailers. Moreover, owing to Covid-19 e-commerce companies have also become a part of this supply chain. The lockdown and the ban on public gatherings at pubs have forced beer-drinkers to resort to online shopping of beer.
To begin with, the freight forwarders are responsible for collecting and moving all the necessary raw materials. These materials include malt, yeast, and hops from the fields to the brewery where the beer is produced. Additionally, they also need to move some extra materials like brewing equipment plus coffee, fruit, spices, and fermented sugar that goes into the making of artisanal beer. The production of beer demands considerable research, development and labour on part of the brewer. However, once bottled, its distribution is once again in the hands of the freight forwarders.
Recent trends in beer shipping and logistics
The efficient supply chain of beer is to a large extent dictated by the competency of the freight forwarders. Like in all sectors, digitization has considerably impacted the traditional way of shipping beer that has undergone considerable changes in the past few years. For example, the logistics companies these days perform batch tracking with the help of the brewery online tools. This allows them to monitor the product and determine the inbound and outbound delivery status to the warehouse. Restocking the beer supply and ensuring timely deliveries to the retailers are in the hands of the freight forwarding companies.
Digitization has transformed the beer shipment process via automated storage and retrieval systems in the warehouses. This results in speedier warehousing processes and quicker delivery time. Moreover, the use of brewery software has enabled the producers to create a more efficient pricing strategy that maximizes return.
The tasks of the freight forwarders in the beer supply chain
Freight forwarders specializing in brewery logistics are known to provide an integrated service that takes the stress off the producers. In other words, the brewers just need to focus on the creation of good beer and leave the inbound and outbound logistics in the hands of the freight forwarders. They are responsible for all the aspects of moving the raw materials along with the equipment, kegs, and the finished product. The best companies servicing this sector have extensive knowledge of shipping alcohol. They provide specialized beer transportation services that get the beverage delivered to its destination right on time. Moreover, interstate or international movement of beer requires the forwarders to abide by the regulations of each state/country while ensuring its delivery in perfect condition.
Additionally, the freight forwarders are also responsible for providing a faster turn-around time for the beer kegs. Quick return of the kegs can be highly advantageous for the breweries. It allows for lower capital investment in kegs and there leads to considerable cost cuts.
Moreover, the logistics companies need to be mindful about protecting the cargo from rain, snow, and excessive-high or low temperatures. Exposure to moisture might cause the labels to detach from the bottles. Moreover, it also results in corrosion and rusting of the cans and the bottle caps. Moisture contamination of the cartons also has to be avoided at all costs. This is because the rusting of the pull-top cans makes the beer prone to damage by air. Additionally, unsuitable temperature while transporting degrades the quality and leads to the haziness of the beer. Beer barrels are more susceptible to be affected by changes in temperature. The losses of beer cans and bottles are mostly because of external factors like the collapse of cartons, or breakage of glass.
The final distribution process
The biggest risks involving beer shipments are broken bottles, spillage of contents, and cargo theft. In spite of taking all the precautions, it can be impossible to deliver the shipment in its intact condition. Around 4-5% of the cargo content doesn’t generally arrive at the retailers. Even a few decades back, the international movement of beer wasn’t so common. Mostly, forwarders rely on trucks for the domestic transportation of beer. However, the beer cans and bottles are pressure sensitive and high impact which is why the cargo handling process needs special attention. Dented cans lead to a value reduction of beer. On the other hand, broken bottles result in the contamination of the packaging of the rest of the cargo.
The worldwide distribution of beer from the top brands is gradually adapting to the changed globalized scenario. The change in consumer behaviour, technological innovations, industry operations, and the vast range of services offered by the logistics providers are changing the supply chain of this much-loved beverage. These days consumers in South Africa can order a beer can crafted in Germany. Obviously, we have to thank the freight forwarders for making this possible.