UK on brink of beer bottle shortage amid rising costs, warns wholesaler

Brewers are already switching to cans because of the rising cost of glassware.

A beer bottle shortage could be imminent in the UK, a leading wholesaler has warned (Yui Mok/PA)
A beer bottle shortage could be imminent in the UK, a leading wholesaler has warned (Yui Mok/PA)

The UK is on the brink of a bottled beer shortage as stocks of glassware plummet and production costs soar, a leading Scottish wholesaler has warned.

Suppliers are already starting to deal with a glassware shortage, as prices jumped by 80% in the last 12 months due to rising energy costs.

The warning comes after beer experts in Germany said the country could be facing a glasware shortage this summer, with their small and medium-sized breweries expected to bear the brunt.

And it is only a matter of time before the shortage is felt within the UK’s beer industry, according to Julie Dunn, operations director at one of Scotland’s largest wholesalers, Dunns Food and Drinks.

She said: “It won’t be long before the glassware shortages hits UK consumers. Our wine and spirits suppliers from around the globe are facing ongoing struggles that will have a knock-on effect.

“As a result, there could be less variety in the bottled beers we see on UK shelves.

“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 onto beer drinkers.

“We sell a huge amount of beer from Germany, so I would expect us to feel a fairly seismic hit in the very near future. However, Dunns will always endeavour to source the best possible range it can.”

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

Steven Smith-Hay, Vault City Brewing

Beer accounts for more than £7.1 billion of spend in 2020 – putting it as the most popular, alcoholic drink choice in the UK.

A marked shift towards people opting to drink beer at home rather than in hospitality venues was noted in 2017, with more than 53% of all beer sales happening off trade – an increase of 20% since 2000.

Scottish brewers have already taken action to combat the rising production costs.

Edinburgh-based brewery Vault City Brewing will switch to predominantly can-only releases next month.

Steven Smith-Hay, the company’s co-founder, said: “We started introducing cans to our release schedule in January because of rising costs and challenges with availability.

“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.”

Mr Smith-Hay said the company are paying approximately 65p per bottle currently – which is around 15p more than six months ago.

He added: “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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