By Scott Wright

A LEADING Scottish drinks wholesaler has warned of an imminent shortage of glass beer bottles.

Brewers around the world are grappling with supply-chain disruption and rising production costs sparked by the surge in energy prices, following the Russian assault on Ukraine.

And Dunns Food and Drinks declared it is “only a matter of time” before the glass bottle shortage is felt in the UK.

The Blantyre-based company highlighted acute shortages in Germany, a major source of beer imports for the company, where it said the price of glassware has jumped by 80 per cent in the last 12 months because of rising energy costs.

Dunns noted that beer industry experts in Germany have warned the country faces a glass bottle shortage this summer, with quotes attributed to the German Brewers’ Federation describing the situation is “extremely tense”. It is feared that small and medium-sized breweries will be particularly affected in Germany.

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“We will see shortages by summer at the latest,” Holger Eichele, chief executive of the German Brewers’ Federation to Bild, told German newspaper Bild.

Julie Dunn, operations director at the Scottish wholesale business, said: “It won’t be long before the glassware shortage hits UK consumers. Our wine and spirits suppliers from around the globe are facing ongoing struggles that will have a knock-on effect. As a result, there could be less variety in the bottled beers we see on UK shelves.

“Specialist bottles and glassware hold a very important place in the heritage of the beer industry and I expect that while some breweries will convert to cans to ensure consistent supply, others will look at this as devaluing the brand, so will inevitably pass the additional cost onto beer drinkers.

“We sell a huge amount of beer from Germany, so I would expect us to feel a fairly seismic hit in the very near future. However, Dunns will always endeavour to source the best possible range it can.”

One Edinburgh-based brewer has responded to the glass shortage by switching from bottles to cans. Portobello-based Vault City Brewing, which specialises in sour beer and supplies more than 600 Tesco stores around the UK, said it will shift to mainly can-only releases from next month.

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Steven Smith-Hay, co-founder of Vault City Brewing, said: “We started introducing cans to our release schedule in January because of rising costs and challenges with availability. This was initially just for our session sours and supermarket range, but because production prices are so high we have decided to make all our beers can-only from June, with the exception of a few special releases each year.

“We are paying roughly 65p per bottle just now, which is around a 15p jump on what we were paying six months ago. If you think about the volume of beer we’re bottling even as a microbrewery, the costs really start to pile up. It is just not viable to keep going in that direction.”

Reports in Germany cited the impact on driver shortages, in addition to rising energy costs, as a factor behind the bottle shortage. Brewers are reportedly urging people to return empty glass bottles to retailers as quickly as possible.

The prospect of a glass shortage comes shortly after warnings from brewers and pub operators that earnings this year will be hit by surging input costs. Mitchells & Butlers, the pub giant that owns Glasgow’s Horseshoe Bar, said last week that cost inflation posed a “major challenge to the hospitality sector as a whole” against a backdrop of surging energy, food and wage costs.

C&C Group, owner Tennent’s Lager, said last week that it may have to increase prices to trade customers for the second time in six months. The company increased prices in November and said it was likely that more rises may be necessary given “additional input cost pressure, particularly at our manufacturing facilities”.

Citing the cost-of-living crisis, chief executive David Forde said: “The outlook is a bit uncertain.”