De Circus Brouwerij

Belgium's brewers are short of bottles

The country’s brewers are currently confronted with a serious shortage of bottles. The coronavirus crisis has seen demand for glass bottles rise significantly. With bars and restaurant having been closed for more than half of the past year Belgium’s brewers have been bottling far more of their beer for sale in supermarkets or shop with much less beer being put into barrels. 

The financial daily De Tijd writes that even before sales of bottled beer increased there was a shortage of glass bottle.

The CEO of the Huyghe Brewery that brews Delerium Tremens in the East Flemish municipality of Melle Alain De Laet told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ that “Suddenly bars in the whole of Europe closed and the focus switched from hospitality outlets to the supermarkets”.

This brought with it a logistical challenge as “Most of the beer sold in supermarkets is sold in bottles and not in draught barrels as is the case in bars and restaurants”.

As brewers in the whole of Europe suddenly started to put all their beer into bottles, bottles are now in short supply. “Both large and small bottles are currently difficult to find”, Mr De Laet told VRT News.  

However, even before the pandemic there were already issues with the supply of bottles.

The CEO of Axaglass, Belgium’s biggest distributer of beer bottles, Christophe Bossut. told the daily ‘De Tijd’ that “There has been a shortage for some years now as the number of bottle manufacturers in Europe has decreased”.

Many bottle factories have closed after takeovers and mergers. Now on top of this bottle manufacturers have been caught out by the growth in demand for glass bottles.

"The European beer sector has grown in recent years, amongst other reasons, thanks to export. At the same time wine production is growing and more milk is starting to be sold in glass bottles again”, Mr Bossut said. The glass manufactures are trying to increase production, but only slow progress is being made. A new glass oven costs ten of millions of euro.

Not all brewers are being impacted by the shortage of glass. Large brewers such as AB InBev and Heineken (that produce Maes Pils) are being given priority over other customers by the three big glass producers. 

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