World’s largest Bud­weiser brew­ery gives a be­hind-the-scenes tour

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - ENTERPRISE -

If beer is the medium, then Bud­weiser is the mes­sage. “We’re here for the beer,” is the global brand’s cor­po­rate motto.

How­ever, as with any other prod­uct of pop­u­lar cul­ture, the mean­ing of the mes­sage de­pends on the re­ceivers. There­fore, beer drink­ing cul­ture in Ger­many is dif­fer­ent from that of the US or China. In the US, Bud­weiser is mar­keted as the go-to light beer for the work­ing class, but in China, it is an Amer­i­can pre­mium beer. How­ever, the brew­ing tra­di­tion re­mains the same.

An­heuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), the multi­na­tional that has the largest share of the global beer mar­ket, in­clud­ing the Bud­weiser brand, op­er­ates around 40 fac­to­ries in China. The largest one brews 20 per­cent of all Bud­weiser beer glob­ally – 1.6 mil­lion tons per year. It is sta­tioned in Foshan in South China’s Guang­dong Prov­ince. On July 10, the fac­tory opened its doors to let the pub­lic in on a few of the se­crets be­hind its rep­u­ta­tion as the “king of beers.”

Upon en­ter­ing the fac­tory grounds, the hot and hu­mid South­ern Chi­nese air mixed with a heavy smell of fer­mented grains. The fac­tory tour started with the brew­ery’s sac­cha­r­i­fi­ca­tion workshop then pro­ceeded to the pack­ag­ing workshop and the qual­ity test lab be­fore end­ing with a taste of freshly brewed ice-cold Bud­weiser.

Bud­weiser’s aim is not just to brew beer, but good tast­ing beer that meets a high stan­dard. Ac­cord­ing to Cheng Yan­jun, AB InBev’s VP Sup­ply & Lo­gis­tics, APAC North, beer is deemed high qual­ity when it meets the na­tional stan­dard and con­sumer pref­er­ence, and be­ing a multi­na­tional com­pany comes with sev­eral ad­van­tages of scale that help to achieve that high stan­dard.

“First, we can build on our wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in global man­u­fac­tur­ing. Sec­ond, we pro­mote ac­tive ex­change and best prac­tice shar­ing be­tween our staff. Third, we can build up the level of the tech­nolo­gies ap­plied and also the level of au­to­ma­tion,” Cheng said.

The fac­tory’s new pro­duc­tion tech­nol­ogy is mainly ap­plied in the pack­ag­ing stage with bot­tling lines that can fill 600 to 800 bot­tles of beer within a minute, mean­ing that they can bot­tle and cap at least 10 bot­tles of beer per sec­ond.

But high-tech ap­pli­ca­tion also comes in ear­lier, dur­ing the sac­cha­r­i­fi­ca­tion stage. The com­pany’s mon­i­tor­ing com­puter BRAUMAT checks al­most 1,500 in­di­ca­tors in the brew­ing process, such as tem­per­a­ture and time, and uses com­put­ers to au­to­mat­i­cally con­trol each process to make sure that the qual­ity and taste of each bot­tle of beer is con­sis­tent.

Through tech­nolo­gies like BRAUMAT, Bud­weiser main­tains its global stan­dards whether its beer is be­ing bot­tled in the US or China. The se­lec­tion of raw in­gre­di­ents that meet Bud­weiser’s global stan­dards is also an­other key fac­tor, and ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, its stan­dards are stricter than China’s na­tional stan­dards. The wa­ter, sup­plied by the city of Foshan, is pro­cessed through the Bud­weiser wa­ter treat­ment ma­chin­ery first. The malt is im­ported from Canada and the hop from the US or Ger­many.

An­other crit­i­cal as­pect of the com­pany’s sup­ply chain is trans­porta­tion. Bud­weiser’s trans­porta­tion lo­gis­tics con­trib­ute to 5.5 per­cent of the global car­bon emis­sions, but Bud­weiser makes an ef­fort to re­duce its CO2 emis­sions both in pro­duc­tion and trans­porta­tion.

“In terms of lo­gis­tics, we have re­placed our ve­hi­cles that burn gaso­line with those that burn nat­u­ral gas,” Cheng ex­plained.

Food safety and qual­ity as­sur­ance is a big con­cern for Chi­nese con­sumers. Bud­weiser not only tests more than 6,500 cri­te­ria per day to as­sure top brew­ing qual­ity, but AB InBev has also launched a full trace­abil­ity sys­tem, in which each bot­tle of Bud­weiser car­ries a trace­abil­ity code. With this tiny code, the brew­ery can trace the move­ment of a bot­tle of beer from malt to the fin­ished prod­uct within just four hours. The data ex­tracted by the code cov­ers not only in­for­ma­tion like pro­duc­tion time, ware­house stor­age po­si­tion and du­ra­tion but also the li­cense plate num­ber of ve­hi­cles that de­liver the malt and their sup­pli­ers as well.

Zhang Wu­jiu, vice dean of China Na­tional Re­search In­sti­tute of Food and Fermentation In­dus­tries, who was a part of the brew­ery tour, said con­sumers should treat mar­ket ru­mors ra­tio­nally and reach out to rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties for ev­i­dence and ad­vice.

In China, Bud­weiser is the drink of choice for the trendy ur­ban mid­dle class whether they are in a bar or at­tend­ing a busi­ness din­ner. Whether one is a blue- or white-col­lar worker, Bud­weiser makes sure to be “here for the beer” so that their cus­tomers around the world can en­joy the taste and qual­ity they ex­pect from the “king of beers.”

Photo: Courtesy of AB InBev

Bud­weiser’s tech­ni­cal staff mon­i­tors the data com­ing in from the brew­ery to safe­guard prod­uct qual­ity.

Photo: Courtesy of AB InBev

A Bud­weiser qual­ity as­sur­ance lab pro­fes­sional con­ducts sam­ple tests on the fully-au­to­matic beer an­a­lyzer. The AB InBev Foshan brew­ery was de­signed and built with a fully-func­tion­ing lab, which is equipped with a wide range of in­dus­trylead­ing equip­ment. The lab tests more than 6,500 cri­te­ria per day to im­prove the qual­ity as­sur­ance stan­dards across all stages of brew­ing: raw ma­te­rial qual­ity, pro­duc­tion process and pack­ag­ing.

Photo: Courtesy of AB InBev

Cheng Yan­jun, AB InBev’s VP Sup­ply & Lo­gis­tics, APAC North, said be­ing a multi­na­tional com­pany comes with sev­eral ad­van­tages in brew­ing top-qual­ity beer.

Bud­weiser bot­tling lines can fill 600 to 800 bot­tles of beer within a minute. It only takes 0.8 sec­onds for a bot­tle of beer to travel from the mouth of the bot­tling ma­chine to the cap­per.

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