One brew at a time

Red Stripe to commission co-generation plant in face of high energy cost

BY TAMEKA GORDON Assistant business co-ordinator

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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HIGH energy costs have prompted Red Stripe to commission a co-generation plant at its Kingston brewery.

The local brewer is rolling out "an aggressive strategy of simplifying the company's business," according to the company's Managing Director Cedric Blair, who cited an annual utility bill of $600 million.

"It is hard to sustain an energy-intensive company against the background of such high energy costs, so we have gotten full approval for our co-generation plant, which will come into effect shortly," he said.

Faced with a similar reality as it relates to inputs, Red Stripe is set to establish commercial agreements with farmers to cultivate over 2,000 acres of cassava and sorghum to replace imported barley for input in its beer.

As the beer manufacturer, which also produces Heineken, seeks to replace 20 per cent of its raw material by 2014, Blair said that the company's repositioning is key to evolution and staying afloat in the face of challenging times.

By his reckoning, the company has probably undergone more changes than any other major local company.

"Our resilience and ability to remain focused on what we need to deliver sets us apart from the competition," Blair noted in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

The company, which currently imports malt from Canada and Europe, is seeking to reduce its production cost with the cheaper supplement of barley.

"At the moment malt prices are very high, so even though barley is bulkier to import, it is a lower cost to us," said Marguerite Cremin, Red Stripe's head of corporate communications.

The cost-effective raw material will not compromise the taste of the brew, the company said, adding that both imports will be used in its brews as it does not intend to replace its current malt-base formula.

Having shifted the production for its US market to that country last year, the company counts the "delicate handling" of its staff rationalisation as among its top success for 2012.

"Those employees come back to work in our busy periods and their performance is no less productive than those who remained," he said noting that the treatment of the axed employees adds to the harmony the company still enjoys.

In noting the symbiotic relationship between staff upgrading and productivity, Blair said that employees are sent on training expeditions to Red Stripe's parent plants to understudy what Blair described as "best practice policies".

The employees are then tasked to infuse their newfound skills into the company's operations.

New innovations continue to bolster the company's performance.

The Christmas pop-up stores "were also a success" said Blair.

The pop-up stores, which saw a partnership between Red Stripe and Hi-Lo supermarkets, allowed the company, by Blair's reckoning, "to reach our customers".

Sales of the fledgling Tallawah beer "also exceeded our expectations," he said.

The company plans to replicate the Tallawah success factor into other new innovations which are to be launched.

Unknown to the average beer drinker, the brewing process begins with the tipping of the malt into silos at the company's Spanish Town Road complex.

A rigorous and detailed process then ensues with the malt put through a de-stoner, which removes unwanted magnetic material particles.

For a brew of Red Stripe beer, the crushed 1,500 kilogrammes of malt is then sent to a malt hopper, which then goes to the mash mixer where water and heat is added to cook the malt.

The cooked mixture is filtered to remove the malt husk, which is sold to farmers as feed for livestock.

A process sterilisation and cooling then translates into wort, which is cooled and left for a period to acquire the famous fermented flavour.




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