Wisdom from ice-cold Beer
Publ. date 20 Sep 2010
Those of you who are aficionados of the famous BBC “Top Gear” program will be familiar with the COOL WALL concept. This is the segment in which show host Jeremy Clarkson and his crew decide which cars are COOL and which cars are UNCOOL. One of the coolest product categories around is beer. So which sustainable innovations are beer brands bringing us?

Beer, Bratwurst, and Bacteria at the German Oktoberfest

Germany's famous Oktoberfest beer party, this month celebrating its 200th birthday, is rising to a new challenge — stinky drinking halls — with a new organic weapon: stench-eating bacteria. In past years, the smell from stale beer, sweat and bratwurst could simply be masked with cigarette smoke. But now Bavaria decided to ban smoking across the state in all pubs, cafes and beer tents, including the Oktoberfest. The smoking ban led to the innovative development of a cocktail of bacteria that "eat" the smell of partying. The inventor describes it as "the most natural way of treating organic waste". What remains is "a natural fertilizer for grass growing back in the spring”.

Not all beverages are created equal

Coca-Cola is globally working hard to reduce its footprint that mainly sources from its vending machines. Cooling beverages throughout the supply chain has a big impact on their CO2 -profile. To support their approach, the company made a big gesture with their carbon-neutral sponsorship of the Olympic Games in Vancouver. For instance, 1,400 newly designed Coca-cola coolers were used. The new technology reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 5,600 metric tons compared to older technology.

Also Miller Coors is making serious work from its efforts on corporate responsibility. Through its 'Great Beer, Great Responsibility' program, Miller Coors is emphasizing the importance of pure raw materials and the focus on alcohol responsibility, social responsibility and environmental sustainability. This year, with their Coors Light and Coors Banquet product, the company introduced the “cold activated window”. This window enables the buyer to see if the beer is cold right through the outside packaging, allowing customers to detect if the beer is cold before they buy it from the store.

In 2009, Heineken introduced 50cl coolcans that enable impulse buyers with mega thirst to buy ice cold beers in supermarkets in parallel with their Enjoy Responsibly program. And several beer brands have introduced a Sub Zero Cooler, allowing supermarkets to store beer at minus 2 degrees centigrade. With Heineken recently de-listed from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Diageo is the only alcohol producing member left in the index. This means that industry efforts on innovation will need to factor in CSR. Are sub zero coolers and coolcans really sub-zero COOL or just a marketing devices adding a significant CO2 footprint to its supply chain?

Help wanted

Finch & Beak is conducting a case study for IMD Lausanne on innovation and beer. Cool ideas on recent innovations from the beer industry are more than welcomed. Please contact us at

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