Walking into a grocery store in the U.S. 25 years ago, a consumer shopping for alcoholic beverages would face a cooler that looks vastly different from the coolers of today, with beer selection comprised of big brands. Starting in the mid-2000s, consumer tastes began to change, resulting in higher demand for wine and spirits, including flavored vodka and whiskey, and craft beers.
According to the Brewers Association, while beer volume sales were down 2% in 2019 in the U.S., craft brewer sales were up 4%. Craft beer now accounts for more than 25% of the retail beer market, capturing $29.3 billion annually. More recently, the hard seltzer craze took hold, with sales of White Claw up approximately 250% in 2019 over the previous year, and brands like Truly expected sales to double again in 2020 and grow by another 50% in 2021. Much of the demand for these products comes in the form of variety packs – consumers expect to get multiple flavors in one package and are willing to pay for the convenience.
These trends have changed the products beverage manufacturers create, and the facilities, equipment, and processes required to do so. The manufacturing processes of the past were simpler – multiple bottling lines would be filled with the same style of product before being capped, labelled, packaged, and shipped to wholesalers. Now manufacturers producing four flavors of one product require separate lines, fillers, labels, and storage for each, as well as a process to efficiently combine different flavor combinations into a single package.
Meeting the Growing Demand for Variety
With strong competition to capture additional customers, variety packs allow manufacturers to appeal to differing consumer preferences. Clients small and large, at various stages of automation, are partnering with Foth to help them capture this growing market. In all its variety pack line installations, Foth’s focus is on understanding clients’ needs today and tomorrow to incorporate flexibility, providing clients with the assurance their investment will adapt and grow with them.
When undertaking a variety pack line installation, Foth collaborates with clients from project initiation to completion and prioritizes the following.
- Building for Purpose: We are solution and machine agnostic, and place priority on space efficiency, speed, and cost minimization in identifying the optimal solution for our clients, working with any Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) in doing so. We provide our clients with their preferred level of automation and identify additional automation opportunities where appropriate, focused on providing flexibility based on space, budget, and future plans.
- Deciding Between Flexibility and Operational Cost: Variety pack line installations almost always require manufacturers to make a difficult decision. Manufacturers can maintain flexibility by shipping their product to re-packers to create variety packs or can benefit from reduced long-term operational costs through installing a line of their own. Foth lends its expertise to help clients make informed decisions so they can proceed with confidence.
- Considering all Aspects of the Project: Beyond line installation is the importance of considering current and future space requirements. The space required for storage, equipment, and future processes is often underestimated. Foth brings its years of experience to help clients anticipate and incorporate their current and future needs. We take a top to bottom approach to our work, ensuring the spaces and materials, from flooring to lighting, that support the line installation are complete.
- Prioritizing Line Optimization: Implementing effective controls in line optimization and integration can increase the efficiency of a process by up to 20%. Foth’s control engineers have a proven track record of identifying problem areas in machine start and stop times, buffering, transitions, and more, to increase quality and efficiency that translates to improved margins.
What the Future Holds for Beverage Manufacturers
In addition to responding to the growing trend of consumer demand for variety, manufacturers in the beverage industry will continue to look for opportunities for automation, decreasing costs to increase margins, and reducing waste. Finding ways to increase efficiency and decrease downtime with flavor changeovers will continue as we progress from variety pack line installation to optimization.
Industries the world over are facing increasing pressures to reuse and reduce waste and enhance the overall sustainability of their operations. From reducing the amount of plastic used in a process to treating and reusing wastewater, beverage manufacturers will continue to need to find creative solutions to these challenges. When it comes to packaging, manufacturers are seeking to find options made from recycled materials. Aluminum cans will continue to be in demand and beverages typically offered in bottles, like wine, will be available in cans.
Whether installing a new line, optimizing current processes, or seeking to enhance environmental performance, no project is too big or too small for the members at Foth. Our cross-functional approach and team of experts mean we are ready to solve your toughest challenges with energy and ingenuity.