Cenosillicaphobia (Fear of an empty beer glass) is REAL!

Life is tough, it would be tougher without beer! Save the planet!!

Beer! What does Climate change have to do with Beer?

Beer is made from five ingredients. Three out of five of these ingredients are affected by climate change.

 

mmabe_ingredients_v3

                                                                                                Beer & brewing | AB InBev. 2016. Beer & brewing | AB InBev

Barley –  Malt barley is the core ingredient for most beers. The starch in barley is converted to sugar during the brewing process. The sugar is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide during the fermentation process. The selection of barley decides the color, taste, aroma and the frothy foam of the beer1.

Global warming is causing the weather patterns to change which has reduced the usable yield of high quality barley2.

Hops – Depending upon the stage at which they are used, hops gives beer its bitterness or its aroma. Hops also double down as a preservative extending the life of beer3.

A warming climate is increasingly threatening supplies of hops. 2015 has been a bad year for hops producers in Germany and USA due to drought and heat. Considering that USA and Germany together contribute to about one-third of global hops production, the situation doesn’t look very good4.

Also, the quality of hops has been falling across Europe since 1954 due to warmer temperatures. The ideal alpha acid percentage to get that characteristic delicate bitter pilsner taste is around 5%. A team in Europe found that between 1954 to 2006 the acidity of the hops dropped 0.06% every year during this period. Unfortunately, this statistic is showing little sign of stabilizing5.

Water – The integrity and the purity of the beer depends upon water. Up to 95% of beer is water. Thus water scarcity is a major problem for the beer industry. Quality of the water affects the taste of the beer. Brewers in California say that the state’s drought has forced them to increasingly rely on groundwater. which can produce unpleasant tastes in beers6.

Scarcity of water also impacts barley and hops yield.

What does it mean for ABInBev?

 

ab-inbev_logo

http://www.ab-inbev.com/. 2016. AB InBev Logo.

ABInBev is the world’s leading beer manufacturing company. In 2014, one out of every five beers sold across the world came from the ABInBev stable7. Not only is it the most to be impacted by the climate change but it is also the company that needs to be doing the most about it.

So what is ABInBev doing about Climate Change?

1. Having a responsible Supply Chain Sourcing Policy

Transforming Agriculture

ABInBev worked with a satellite technology company to help growers identify areas within their fields where barley yield and quality can be improved. The technology was tested in Russia and would be used in USA this year8.

ABInBev launched the SmartBarley program in 2013. SmartBarley is a program for the barley growers in ABInBev’s global network. The objective of the platform is to benchmark and share the best practices that drive productivity gains within the farming operations9.

ABInBev has set up a Global Barley Research team. The team is focused on developing new varieties of malt barley which are resistant to Climate, pest, diseases and need less water10.

Reducing their use of water

For ABInBev, 90% of the total water use goes into growing barley and other agricultural inputs. ABInBev is working with farmers in US to grow more barley with less water – through enhanced irrigation and drought resistant seeds. Enhanced irrigation is achieved through an irrigation scheduler program, AgriMet which works with the local climate data to optimize irrigation schedules. Pilot programs have shown promising results with a reduction in water use by 9%-23%11.

ABInBev is cutting down water use in the brewing process It is implementing practices through which water may be re-utilized e.g. through reverse osmosis.

2. Reducing the energy consumption and emissions

In an attempt to reduce its carbon emissions, ABInBev, in 2014, replaced its 66 diesel tractor fleet in Houston with compressed natural gas-powered engines12.
In China, ABInBev replaced their coolers with new coolers that use refrigerant gases with lower global warming potential. By 2015, the company had 89 percent eco Cooler purchases in China which it plans to bring up to 100 percent13.

3. Reducing waste and improving packaging

Manufacturing glass requires carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process. In an attempt to reduce the carbon emission, ABInBev reduced the weight of their bottles for Beck’s and Beck’s bottles in UK by 20g. It may seem like a small reduction but it meant lesser carbon emissions equivalent to the emissions of 380 households14.

ABInBev has been focusing on their recycling program as well. More than 98.5 percent of their solid waste was recycled in 2014. 83 percent of their beverage plants achieved almost zero waste to landfill status15.

What else can ABInBev do more?

Use more renewable energy in their processes- Between 2012 and 2015, the percentage usage of renewable energy has only increased by 4.9%16 to 10.9%17. ABInBev can do more here.

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Endnotes

  1. Beer & brewing | AB InBev. 2016. Beer & brewing | AB InBev, http://www.ab-inbev.com/our-story/beer-and-brewing.html. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  2. Beer and Climate Change. 2016. Beer and Climate Change, http://climate.org/archive/topics/climate-change/beer-climate-change.html. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  3. All About Beer. 2016. Understanding Hops in Beer, http://allaboutbeer.com/learn/beer/hops/. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  4. 2016. Climate Change Poses Threat to Key Ingredient in Beer, NOAA Warns – EcoWatch, http://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change-poses-threat-to-key-ingredient-in-beer-noaa-warns-1882168560.html. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  5. The impact of climate change on the yield and quality of Saaz hops in the Czech Republic . 2016. The impact of climate change on the yield and quality of Saaz hops in the Czech Republic, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168192309000392. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  6. 2016. Climate Change Poses Threat to Key Ingredient in Beer, NOAA Warns – EcoWatch, http://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change-poses-threat-to-key-ingredient-in-beer-noaa-warns-1882168560.html. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  7. 2016. Global beer industry market share | Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/257677/global-market-share-of-the-leading-beer-companies-based-on-sales/. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  8. ab-inbev.com. 2016. 2015 Global Citizenship Report, http://www.ab-inbev.com/content/dam/universaltemplate/ab-inbev/sustainability/document.pdf. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  9. 2016. Home, http://www.smartbarley.com/. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  10. Ibid.
  11. How Anheuser-Busch InBev Is Using Less Water | Justmeans. 2016. How Anheuser-Busch InBev Is Using Less Water | Justmeans, http://www.justmeans.com/blogs/how-anheuser-busch-inbev-is-using-less-water. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  12. Anheuser-Busch Converts Houston Fleet to CNG · Environmental Leader · Environmental Management News. 2016. Anheuser-Busch Converts Houston Fleet to CNG · Environmental Leader · Environmental Management News, http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/09/05/anheuser-busch-converts-houston-fleet-to-cng/#ixzz4OzPAjYTJ. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  13. How AB InBev Beat its Eco-Cooler Goal Two Years Early · Environmental Leader · Environmental Management News. 2016. How AB InBev Beat its Eco-Cooler Goal Two Years Early · Environmental Leader · Environmental Management News, http://www.environmentalleader.com/2016/05/13/how-ab-inbev-beat-its-eco-cooler-goal-two-years-early/. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  14. Less bottle. Less CO2. 2016. Less bottle. Less CO2, http://www.ab-inbev.co.uk/better-world/ABInBev-environment/case-study-less-bottle-less-co2/. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  15. AB InBev Reduces Water Use 3.6%, Beats Target · Environmental Leader · Environmental Management News. 2016. AB InBev Reduces Water Use 3.6%, Beats Target · Environmental Leader · Environmental Management News, http://www.environmentalleader.com/2015/04/30/ab-inbev-reduces-water-use-3-6-beats-target/.[Accessed 3 November 2016]
  16. AB InBev Sustainability Report: Waste Down 55% in a Year · Environmental Leader · Environmental Management News. 2016. AB InBev Sustainability Report: Waste Down 55% in a Year · Environmental Leader · Environmental Management News, http://www.environmentalleader.com/2013/04/26/ab-inbev-sustainability-report-waste-down-55-in-a-year. [Accessed 3 November 2016]
  17. ABInBev. 2015. http://www.ab-inbev.com/content/dam/universaltemplate/ab-inbev/sustainability/document.pdf. [Accessed 3 November 2016]

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6 thoughts on “Cenosillicaphobia (Fear of an empty beer glass) is REAL!

  1. Thank you for this post! I’m impressed with the partnership with the satellite technology company, the SmartBarley program, and the Global Barley Research team; I think investment in new technology is going to be critical for beverage, as well as chocolate and coffee companies. While doing research for this assignment, I came across research done by Suntory, a Japanese beverage company, on hops: http://www.suntory.com/sic/research/t_hop/. Since the research is publicly available, it made me wonder what the role will be of publishing information about new research—and whether companies will choose to collaborate or not? Will it differ by industry (e.g., beer vs. chocolate)? What incentives are there to collaborate?

  2. Indeed a harrowing thought. I think Cenosillicaphobia is a common condition that is rarely discussed so I thank you for picking such a relevant topic!

    ABInBev has done a lot in response to climate change and improving its operations. In addition to increasing its green energy, as you mention, I think there is an opportunity to diversify its product lines through innovation and acquisition. In addition to improving the operating model for its current offerings, perhaps there are new recipes that are far more sustainable and equally (or ideally more!) delicious. Altering production stocks for seasonal availability of resources may also help them become more efficient in new product areas. On the acquisition side, there’s been a boom in microbreweries which may offer innovative models to help ABInBev improve its operations in the face of challenges you mention above.

  3. I had no idea Cenosillicaphobia exists. Obviously water scarcity will impact beer production just as most agricultural or food industries. For groundwater, I think they can filter it and fix the taste.

    I like how you laid the ground work before talking about ABInBev. And I am impressed by how much they are doing on various front. I guess it is a sort of risk management. It is inspiring to see a beer company working to reduce their environmental footprint. Everyone can do something. This makes feel more optimistic about the future of our planet.

  4. I second Joe’s comment – thank you for raising awareness about this very important fear 😉

    Very interesting post – as you point out, it’s great that ABInBev is trying to lead the charge for the industry. The initiatives that you raise are all really positive contributions to combating climate change.

    I am concerned about how well, if at all, the efforts of ABInBev can translate into craft brewers. With the craft brewing industry growing so rapidly today, there are so many more beer producers than ever before. Though each one has a much smaller footprint, in aggregate craft beer is definitely gaining share. It seems that many of the initiatives you raise are only possible due to ABInBev’s scale and financial resources and therefore wouldn’t be accessible to smaller independent brewers.

    1. As an adopted Wisconsinite, a state that will be devastated should this happen, I really appreciate this post! It is great to see that ABInBev is making headway in addressing some of the impacts of climate change as it pertains to the industry, but similar to A Scuba Diver, I am also concerned about whether craft brewers can afford to adopt the same strategies. In recent years, the number of microbreweries continues to grow at double digits (https://www.brewersassociation.org/press-releases/small-independent-brewers-continue-grow-double-digits/) and is expected to continuing growing in the years to come. Do you think that some of these smaller brewers can adopt some of the initiatives implemented at ABInBev?

  5. Agriculture and associated industries will be among the most impacted by climate change and will also be the ones that could accelerate climate change if not handled responsibly. We see a growing trend of related businesses driving improvements in their supply chains and energy use policies, but we should think of how much would be enough to offset the damages being done to take steps to reduce and reverse climate change.

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