Oktoberfest Beer Shortage? The Unthinkable Could Happen

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I recently came upon an upsetting article on the NPR news blog that I thought I would share. Evidently beer consumption in Munich has been positively impacted by an unusually warm late summer and bottle and keg returns have been lower than normal.

This unexpected increase in bottle and keg demand combined with an unexpected decrease in supply has resulted in the risk of the unthinkable; a potential beer shortage during Oktoberfest.

A quote from the article…” At the moment we could have a situation where we don't have any dark beer for a few days”…seems almost trivial until you think about it within the context of the 1.98 million gallons of beer that were consumed during the 17 days of last year’s festival.   This is definitely not a trivial matter to local breweries.

I think that one of the interesting aspects of this supply chain model is the reliance on consumers to return the bottles and kegs for re-use.  Local breweries will wash and re-use returned bottles up to 50 times according to the article.  Having consumers play such a major part in the supply chain is great from a resource and environmental standpoint, but it could also expose breweries to some risk in the case of a spike in demand.

Taking into consideration that the consumer is also the supplier, what would be your strategy to keep bottle supply in-line with demand?

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Ann-Marie Christopher
- October 09, 2012 at 8:06pm

One strategy you could potentially use is to offer a discount for the next Oktoberfest or some other event at the brewery to those consumers that return the bottle. Another would be to offer consumers who return their bottle(s) a chance to win an awesome prize such as a trip to the Bahamas, a new car or cash. You could also offer a free beer on Oktoberfest to the consumer who returns the most bottles. In addition to these recommendations, I would definitely have a computer system in place that enables accurate demand forecasts based upon past sales history and a backup alternate plan in case the amount of bottles still falls short of demand.

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