Empties: Brewers fear a lack of returnable bottles

The German breweries again fear a shortage of beer bottles.

Empties: Brewers fear a lack of returnable bottles

The German breweries again fear a shortage of beer bottles. Because empty bottles only hesitantly find their way back into the glass cycle, the industry is concerned, regardless of seasonal fluctuations. "This year, empties logistics are threatened with a particular endurance test," says the general manager of the German Brewers' Association, Holger Eichele, of the German Press Agency.

"It was already the case this year that individual breweries could not fulfill all orders because they ran out of empties on certain days," says Eichele.

While the European glassworks have reduced their capacities because of the high prices, numerous glassworks in Ukraine and Russia have failed as suppliers since the beginning of the war of aggression in February 2022.

This would have significantly increased the price and demand for returnable glass bottles. "For glass bottles, we see an increase of up to 140 percent in the purchase price if we compare May 2023 with January 2022," said Eichele.

Shopping behavior and politics

A change in purchasing behavior as a result of the corona pandemic is also affecting the industry. "People go shopping less often and the return of empties is slower if many customers go to supermarkets and beverage stores less often than before," says Eichele.

The breweries fear further bottlenecks due to political decisions. "Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has just presented a packaging law to strengthen and expand reusable packaging. The demand for glass will increase enormously again and things will get really tight," says Eichele.

The plans of the Green politician include, among other things, that supermarkets will have to offer at least one reusable alternative for certain drinks in the future.

Like the brewers, the mineral water industry is also promoting the quick return of reusable bottles. "Just like in the hot summers of recent years, we ask consumers to bring the empties back as quickly as possible so that the reusable systems can function smoothly," says Markus Wolff, CEO of the German Fountain Cooperative (GDB).

Unlike the Brauer-Bund, however, the GDB does not expect any bottlenecks in the supply. The reason for this is the wide packaging mix of mineral water in returnable glass and PET bottles. "Therefore, we can act flexibly and ensure the supply of mineral water even during peak sales periods," says Wolff.

However, the German Glass Industry Association does not anticipate a long-term shortage of glass bottles. "A seasonal shortage of bottles occurs every summer, especially for returnable bottles," the association said on request. This is mainly due to higher beverage consumption and longer return cycles.