Problems with the reusable system: more deposit on beer bottles? Brewery industry debated

The deposit is being discussed in the German brewery industry.

Problems with the reusable system: more deposit on beer bottles? Brewery industry debated

The deposit is being discussed in the German brewery industry. The increased prices for new bottles increase the level of suffering. While some consider a drastic increase to be necessary in order to set up the reusable system well in the long term, others warn of costs of hundreds of millions of euros and scared customers. But the changeover in particular would probably cause problems in the short term.

The core of the problem is that a new beer bottle costs much more than the deposit that is usually 8 cents. "With the current level of the deposit, the return incentive is not big enough. As a result, many bottles and crates are lost and have to be bought at a higher price," says Lothar Ebbertz, general manager of the Bavarian Brewers' Association. A higher deposit could bring the bottles back faster, he says. However, the association is not an advocate of an increase. "The devil is in the details," says Ebbertz.

The German Brewers' Association is also cautious. A deposit increase would be "very difficult to implement" and "extremely expensive for the breweries," emphasizes General Manager Holger Eichele. In addition, in addition to all beverage manufacturers and bottlers, retailers and consumers would also have to get involved.

The burden on the brewers would arise in particular from the fact that if the deposit for bottles and crates that are already in circulation were to be increased, they would have to pay back more deposit than they had previously received and higher reserves would be required in the balance sheet. Eichele calculates that an increase in the deposit rate to 15 cents would cost breweries a total of 280 million euros given the 4 billion returnable beer bottles on the German market. At 25 cents it would even be 680 million euros.

Sebastian Priller, head of the Riegele brewery in Augsburg, which is known for Spezi, also sees this burden. He rekindled the debate with his demand for a deposit of 10 euros for a crate of 20 bottles, which he initially made in the "Augsburger Allgemeine". When asked, he defended the claim. For many companies, a changeover would mean short-term losses, but it would pay for itself in the long term.

In his own house, an increase to 10 euros per box would mean a one-off charge of around 5 million euros, says Priller. This is offset by seven-digit costs per year due to the loss of bottles and crates, and he is convinced that a higher deposit would significantly reduce them. Because more and faster would be returned and a lost bottle would be compensated by a higher deposit.

However, the German Brewers' Association has doubts as to whether the empties with a higher deposit really come back faster. In a survey, only 22 percent of consumers said so, says Eichele. And in principle, the reusable circuit still works very well with the current rates.

The large Veltins brewery in the Sauerland is clearly opposed to a deposit increase. It is the wrong way to "overwhelm the loyal consumer, especially in these consumer-heavy times, with sudden deposit rate increases," warns the chief representative, Michael Huber. "These attempts are thrown into the discussion at regular intervals, only to fail because of the complexity of the German reusable system." The risks of a change are "enormous".

"The discussion has started," says industry expert Niklas Other, who publishes the beverage market magazine "Inside". It is obvious that after many, many years you want to turn the deposit. But the debate is still at the beginning. "It's all immature."

"In recent years, the level of suffering caused by the objectively too low deposit was not so high that the industry would have been willing to accept the costs and difficulties of a changeover," says Ebbertz from the Bavarian Brewers' Association. But the topic is not off the table. "The level of suffering increases with every cent that the bottles become more expensive to buy and we are approaching a point where we have to address the issue."