In 2011, Budweiser Budvar Brewery launched a revolutionary innovation on the market - 20 and 30-litre non-returnable (or disposable) beer barrels of the KeyKeg system. At the time, it represented a radical technological novelty in the field of packing and distributing draught beer. In the case of non-returnable kegs the financially, administratively and time-wise demanding transport of the packaging back from the sales place to the brewery didn’t have to take place. During the past years, the non-returnable kegs have proved successful in Budweiser Budvar as a useful tool for developing global export. However, they will not fully replace returnable kegs in any case, nor are they supplied to customers in the Czech Republic.
“While in 2011 we sold 2,000 hectolitres of beer in non-returnable barrels in five states, it was over 6,000 hectolitres in 17 countries in 2015. Since 2012, we have been supplying dark lager in KeyKeg barrels as well,” says Budweiser Budvar’s export sales manager Renata Pánková.
“We primarily use non-returnable kegs in geographically very distant territories, from where the transport back is too expensive (Australia, Brazil, etc.) and on the other hand, also to those markets where the secondary transport to particular restaurants is either costly or complicated, or where the returnable keg is at a great risk of being lost (Asian part of Russia, Cyprus, Greek Islands). The largest volumes of beer in non-returnable kegs headed for Vietnam, Russia and New Zealand last year. In some cases, the non-returnable keg even opened a door for us to a new territory,” adds Renata Pánková. An example of that is the historically very first export to Chile last year, which only took place due to the fact that Budweiser Budvar was able to deliver the first shipment in KeyKeg barrels.
In 2015, Budweiser Budvar beer was exported to 76 countries, participating in the total Czech export by about one quarter. The volume of the exported Budvar beer exported increased by 10.5% year-on-year onto 900,000 hectolitres.
Further advantages of KeyKeg barrels
It is very important that the KeyKeg system maintains the sensorial as well as microbiological stability of beer in the same way as a regular stainless steel keg, since it operates on a similar principle as the more and more popular beer tanks. Beer is filled into an inside sterile bag made of a special multilayer film which is totally impermeable to gases. During tapping the compressive gas never comes into direct contact with the beer, only pressing on the inner packaging.
KeyKeg barrels protects the environment since they reduce the fuel consumption for transporting beer or empty packaging back to the brewery and are made from recyclable materials. A KeyKeg is almost 10 times lighter than a regular stainless steel keg. In the case of a 20-litre volume, the weight of an empty KeyKeg is only one kilogram, while the weight of a regular stainless steel keg is nine kilograms.