The University of Nottingham is working with 20 micro-brewers across the East Midlands on a ‘Routes to Market’ project to help them develop bottled conditioned beers that can be sold to China and South East Asia.
Experts from the brewing science department of The University of Nottingham have combined with the Food and Drink iNet (Innovation Network) to help microbrewers in the region to develop stable, bottled conditioned beers that are suitable for export.
In 2004, China overtook the USA to become the world’s largest beer market. The competition is growing increasingly fierce amongst the main brewers, but there are niche markets for microbrewers.
The regulations regarding beer duty mean that if brewers are making under a certain volume of beer, the rate of duty decreases. This has resulted in an increase in a seven per cent per annum increase in the number of craft brewers in the UK, a significant proportion of whom are based in the Midlands.
Creating consistent quality
However, with bottle conditioned beers, the final conditioning of the beer takes place in the bottle, which means that the quality can often vary considerably. The team from the University is working with the micro-brewers to increase their control of the process to achieve more consistency in the fully conditioned beers which will lead to higher quality.
The project involves surveying all of the existing bottle conditioned beers produced by the micro-brewers and testing them for consistency, measuring qualities such as alcohol by volume, CO2, microbial stability and shelf life.
Different strains of wet and dry active yeasts are also being tested on the beers, to determine which offers the most consistent results. In addition, the team will examine all of the processes the brewers are using to make their beers to identify and share best practice.
Opening up export markets
The Lincoln Green Brewing Company, based in Hucknall, Notts is one of the businesses taking part in the Routes to Market project. Anthony Hughes, Managing Director of the company, said: “The Routes to Market initiative came at just the right time for us, as we had just started looking at bottling with a view to exporting in the future.
“As a result of the University’s support, we have been reseeding the beer with an additional yeast strain, to stabilise the beer. An expert from the University even came out to help us reseed the first batch of beer so that we could see how it should be done.”
Alongside the work being undertaken on the development of the bottled conditioned beers, the University’s Asia Business Centre will be providing a detailed analysis of the markets for premium beers in China, Hong Kong and the wider South East Asia region. The University will also provide microbrewers with guidelines on the export process and routes to market for bottled conditioned beers.
Speaking about the Routes to Market programme, Dr Jerry Avis, who is managing the project, said: “The microbrewers we are working with are extremely enthusiastic about the Routes to Market programme. They recognise that we are able to help them improve the consistency of their products, reduce their costs and find new, innovative ways of offering their products to customers.”
Helping to give a competitive advantage
Mike Carr, Director of Business Engagement at The University of Nottingham, said: “With the technical expertise we have in the brewing sector and our unrivalled links and knowledge of China and South East Asia, we really can help to give microbrewers in the Midlands a massive competitive advantage when it comes to developing and marketing their products for consumers in the Far East.
“This is one example of the way in which we can help small and medium sized businesses in the East Midlands, and we would be very interested to hear from businesses in other sectors who feel that they can benefit from working with experts at the University top develop their products and find new markets.”
Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Food and Drink iNet provided a grant of £19,750 for the Routes to Market project. Based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, the iNet co-ordinates innovation support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands with advisors working across the East Midlands region.
It is managed by a consortium, led by The Food and Drink Forum and including Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and The University of Nottingham.
A growing appetite for prestige ales
Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall said: “The East Midlands has a successful and developing craft brewing sector, and the Food and Drink iNet is keen to support brewers on planning their commercial journey to opening up new markets, which includes strategic planning as well as the technical/scientific issues.
“There is a growing appetite for prestige ales in areas like China and South East Asia, and we hope this project that we are funding will help East Midlands brewers to compete more effectively in this highly competitive market by not only tackling the product and packaging issues, but also considering market understanding and distribution with the support of UKTI.”
For more information about the University’s services for business, visit www.nottingham.ac.uk/servicesforbusiness