Orkney-based Swannay Brewery has made a major infrastructure investment to help combat changes in sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move has seen a new canning line installed at the brewery, with the team now able to brew, package and distribute beer directly from its base in Orkney’s West Mainland for the first time.
The project also means the brewery will reduce its environmental impact, will less beer shipped south to be packaged, and will hopefully lead to job opportunities too.
The brewery is in the midst of a major £1m expansion project which is currently on hold due to the pandemic. Prior to lockdown in March, more than 70% of Swannay’s sales came from pubs and bars across the country but those sales dropped to nearly zero overnight.
An early decision during lockdown to change the business model to focus on off-sales has seen website sales soar by more than 2000%. It’s hoped the canning line investment will help sustain those sales and attract new customers in bottle and can shops across the UK.
Support for the project has come from the Scottish Government’s Food Processing and Marketing Cooperation Scheme, which agreed to vary the terms of its grant support to include the canning line.
Brewery manager, Lewis Hill, says it’s a major commitment at a difficult time: “It’s a bold move on our behalf but it’s one we are confident will pay dividends, for the business, our beer and the environment well into the future.
“It has always been a dream of ours to be able to package our beer where it’s brewed, and our changed business model due to coronavirus convinced us to take the plunge,” says Lewis. “It will improve beer quality by reducing the need to transfer between the brewery and transport tanks, and all being well we’ll be able to take on at least one further employee to operate the line once volume is built up.”
To mark the installation a special one-off beer has been brewed. ‘Double Down’ is the first to come off the canning line and will be available in 440ml cans from the Swannay Brewery website only.
The canning line has been installed by Bolton-based manufacturer Micro Can Ltd in one of the Swannay Brewery’s new workspaces. The renovation of the brewery, which includes new a brewing space, a visitor centre and tap room, is supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Clydesdale Bank and is on track to be completed in 2021.
The Promoting Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.