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Container Security


45% of all beer sold in the UK is draught i.e. beer sold in kegs and casks, however the popularity of beer sold in this format presents certain challenges and opportunities to the brewing industry. In particular, the re-use of metal containers for draught beer represents a number of benefits including preserving the quality and freshness of bulk packaged beer as well as making a significant contribution to the environmental credentials of the brewer. In order to preserve these benefits and to ensure the supply of draught beer, it is vitally important that brewers are able to rely on the availability of sufficient numbers of kegs and casks.

Container Theft

The vast majority of kegs and casks are produced from metal and in particular, stainless steel. As metal containers, brewer’s kegs and casks therefore carry inherent value, separate from the value of their contents when filled, and as a consequence are a common target for theft and illicit trading as scrap.

The theft of metal beer containers is a significant concern to the UK brewing industry, the impact if which is estimated to cost brewers around £50m each year. Container security is therefore a vital element of the supply chain and particularly to ensure that, once empty, kegs and casks are returned quickly and safely from on-trade, retail premises to the brewer for re-use.

Container Ownership

Another element of container use that is often overlooked is the legal status of kegs and casks. As re-useable containers, kegs and casks remain the legal property of the owning brewer. This will be clearly identified on the container itself but will also generally be identified by the use of a combination of up to three colour bands clearly displayed around centre of the cask.

The BBPA operates a free process for brewers to register the combination of colour bands they wish to be associated with their containers. This website can also be used to identify which brewer’s containers are represented by any given colour combination.

BBPA continues to urge members to ensure that licensees are aware that empty containers, beverage gas cylinders and dispense equipment remain the legal property of the owning brewer and are not included as part of the closure, sale or transfer of retail accounts.

To assist members in this process a variety of resources and guidance are also available for members and/or licensees to assist in the collection of empty containers and beverage gas cylinders from on-trade, retail premises to ensure that these can be returned to their legal owners and do not become lost or placed at risk of theft or illicit scrap.

Keg Watch

Keg Watch is an independent body, established by the UK brewing industry to help combat the issue of container theft and to assist in the repatriation of brewer’s containers that have become lost or abandoned outside of the normal supply chain.

Communication is key to the success of Keg Watch in identifying lost or abandoned containers. They utilise a variety of social media channels and a free-phone number to help the general public report abandoned kegs and casks and for licensees across the UK to arrange for collection of empty containers if return cannot be undertaken through the usual distribution route.

Brewers who wish to scrap their old or damaged metal kegs and casks must notify Keg Watch of this process for each batch of containers and should only use those yards listed on the BBPA website. Following nomination to the BBPA, Keg Watch are responsible for auditing yards that wish to be accredited under the BBPA accredited scrap yard scheme. Inclusion within the scheme is free of charge and yard operators who wish to be included must be nominated to the BBPA by a brewer who must also supply the yard operator with a copy of TC -428. This document describes the process and conditions of accreditation. More information on accreditation can be found by contacting Stephen Livens at the BBPA.

Keg Aware

Keg Aware is an industry campaign launched by the BBPA to raise awareness of the annual, £50 million cost to the industry as a consequence of lost or stolen kegs and casks. In particular, the campaign emphasised the need to ensure the use of best practice for the safe and secure storage of containers at every stage in Britain’s beer supply chain.

A variety of materials are available to support the campaign including a downloadable leaflet which can be used to supplement beer deliveries to pubs and which provides information for licensees, including six simple ‘fixes’, to help them to protect kegs and casks as valuable, brewer owned assets.