The Power of One-Way Kegs
By Chris McEwan, President of Petainer, Americas
There is an interesting phenomenon occurring in the beer sector which is best
described as the ‘squeezed middles’. Those mid-sized breweries that grew rapidly only
to find they are now seemingly stuck between the big brands and the small, more
The smaller breweries may be eyeing them wondering how best to grow without tipping
into their less buoyant middle size dilemma, and it is indeed a fine balancing act. To
date most game-changing strategies they have adopted have centered around
developing new beers, innovative branding and packaging, through to re-shaping the
beer tasting experience.
But what about the logistical side of a beer’s journey to the consumer’s glass? In truth
this has seen very little change over the years, yet this too is being disrupted and it
may well offer small to mid-sized breweries a competitive edge.
How and where consumers enjoy their favorite brew has been re-shaped by a series of
challenger breweries. Whilst the logistical aspect of a brewery may not be particularly
exciting there are now opportunities for innovative, more nimble logistical solutions to
match these more agile breweries’ growing requirements.
As any brewery owner will know, effectively managing on-going change and remaining
at least one step ahead of the competition is crucial to a thriving organization.
Which is why the advent of intensely flavored beers, for instance, should be seen as
just one of the key drivers for sourcing an alternative to the traditional steel keg.
Steel kegs have of course been around for eons, and few have thought to challenge
them, until recently. Yet a cumbersome steel keg comes with its own handling issues
which start with the need to thoroughly clean them to remove all traces of the last brew
they were transporting. Steel kegs should be completely overhauled at least every five
years yet very few are even tagged and most are continuously used until they are too
damaged to continue.
Over the last few years a range of one-way kegs have started to appear on the market.
As a disruptor in a well-established sector they have had their fair share of teething
problems, yet this has resulted in the serious contenders fine-tuning their offerings
Since one-way kegs are also one-time use, they don’t require cleaning, maintenance
or storage after use. It takes about 11 liters of water to wash one steel keg not to
mention the chemicals and energy outlay to properly sterilize them. Any new beer producer
who does not want to invest in either a keg cleaning system, or a stainless
steel fleet will appreciate this.
However to offer true differentiation the PET keg has had to re-write the storing and
transportation rule book too. There now exists a wide range of one-way kegs which
offer differing benefits, and most of them weigh in at around 10% of the standard steel
keg which means that the shipping cost is reduced as is the carbon footprint. With no
storage, fleet or maintenance issues, neither the all-too-common 20% loss of steel
kegs CFO’s have to somehow deal with every year, bringing economic savings to the
supply chain is now a reality.
Getting back to the taste of your beer, cutting-edge barrier technology and heightened
UV and light protection are just two of the factors that ensure the beer maintains its
integrity and has the same shelf-life as its steel sibling, even at higher temperatures. In
fact an independent expert panel ran a blind test over a 12-month period to ensure the
taste profile remained the same.
There is no doubt that one-way kegs flip fleet management on its head. At a time when
sustainability is on everyone’s mind it might at first appear to be a throw-away option
that does not tick the ecological box. Yet by reducing the carbon footprint and the high-
energy requirement of cleaning alone this solution is already a greener option.
Furthermore these new-age kegs are easy to brand, use standard keg valve fittings, fit
on the same production line, can be filled upright or inverted, enable operators to
actually see the beer in the keg through to reduce foaming and increase speed of
filling. You can start to see why they are gaining traction.
As with any disruptor, it will take heritage breweries some time to switch, however we
are already seeing many who have keg fleets starting to trial the one-way alternatives
to rapidly top up production when needed.
In this era of start-up breweries in particular they offer the flexibility to test the market
with less initial investment. As we continue to launch new beers and develop new and
innovative ways of experiencing them, these could offer a new competitive edge for
those feeling the pinch in the middle too.
To find out more go to www.petainer.com