SABMiller, one of the world’s largest brewers, has predicted how its breweries may look in the future, given a range of different scenarios determined by the cost and availability of water and energy.
Working with innovation consultancy, Innovia Technology, SABMiller envisioned four plausible business environments, based on the different uncertainties facing the brewing industry over the next 30 years. These scenarios informed thinking around how the ‘Brewery of the Future’ might look under different circumstances, with some surprising results.
The most extreme scenario, ‘Marginal Survival’ envisaged a market with limited access to water and high energy costs. This scenario – where people would migrate from areas of water shortage or turbulent weather -provoked the most unorthodox response. One of the proposed solutions was a smaller, mobile brewery which would move from place to place on the back of a ship.
Rob Wilkinson, Director of Innovia, said: “The descriptions are intended as food for thought rather than as blueprints for building new facilities. However, the example of the brewery on a ship is entirely feasible. It would allow for rapid entry to new markets, especially where no infrastructure is in place, it would provide flexibility in positioning and length of stay and allow SABMiller to move with water sources, with people, with crops, or even away from severe weather, natural disasters or political instability.”
Maurice Egan, SABMiller’s group head of manufacturing said: “Whilst this research has produced some imaginative solutions, the business case behind the thinking is very serious. We need to ensure that, given the rapid pace of technological developments, the impacts of climate change and
growing wealth in developing economies, SABMiller has the capability to define, design and deploy our future breweries and supply chains.”
In another scenario ‘Energy Deprived’, where energy prices and the cost of transport are high but water plentiful and cheap, the brewery is closely integrated with the community, sharing facilities and resources. For example, local farmers might use the brewery mills for processing crops, while the brewery would use their agricultural waste to create bio-fuel as an energy source; the kilns used for malting barley might also be shared with local businesses as a facility for drying paper pulp. The resulting brewery would be a sustainable building looking not unlike the Eden Project in Cornwall where hot processes are timetabled for the day and cold processes during the cooler night in order to optimise resource use.
The other two scenarios envisaged were:
‘Water Scarce’, where energy costs are low due to large scale investment in alternatives to fossil fuels, but water is in short supply exacerbated by population increases coupled with climate change. In this case, the brewery would be highly optimised for low water use, using less than 2 litre of water to produce 1 litre of beer compared to SABMiller’s current average of 4.5 litres; this would be achieved in part by implementing a continuous brewing system and in part by advanced water treatment technologies.
‘Plentiful Supply’ describes a world self-sufficient in both water and energy, which benefits from low transport costs, abundant rainfall and robust water infrastructure. In this cornucopia sustainability and environmental stewardship remain key drivers. For example, the brewery would use natural processes to upgrade waste or extract valuable chemicals from it so as to reduce environmental impact. Power would be derived from renewable sources such as solar panels, rainwater would be collected and as much water as possible recycled.