RFID and the Beverage Marketplace (part 1)

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Aug 23, 2010 @ 03:53 PM

Tags: RFID, Food & Beverage, Keg Tracking

Thank You Sir!  May I Have Another?

  • Consumers in the U.S. purchased approximately 9.4 billion cases of carbonated soft-drinks in 2009. 
  • According to Slashfood, 51.7 million cases of beer are sold in the week surrounding the Super Bowl and 63 million for Father's Day (way to go dads!).
  • Market research group Mintel reported wine sales reached $27.6 billion dollars in 2009, up from $27 billion in 2008.

The production and sale of soft drinks, bottled waters, beer, wine, spirits and all other non-alcoholic and alcohol drinks makes up a $700 billion global beverage marketplace.  In order to remain competitive, brewers, vineyards, bottlers and distributors need to continuously drive efficiencies into their businesses to create new categories, offer new brands and deliver new products to market to each year. 

Throughout this week we’ll be serving up a few examples of how RFID is being used in the beverage market to drive efficiencies and create new consumer experiences.  Some examples, like keg tracking, have been around for a while - addressing well known asset tracking and supply chain challenges.  Others are newer innovations in the areas of dispensing, sales trend and consumption analysis, and test marketing that companies are using to differentiate themselves in order to maintain a competitive edge.

RFID in the Beverage Supply Chain

kegsFor beverage companies, RFID offers a number of ways to help move products through the supply chain and keep the shelves stocked with drinks when customers are there to purchase them.  RFID solutions speed data capture throughout production cycles and eliminate manual and paper-based processes that are prone to errors and can result in distribution and fulfillment delays.

For example, in April 2009, PepsiCo's Quaker, Gatorade and Tropicana business units began using RFID-enabled pallets from Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS) in their supply chains.  RFID reading and reporting solutions from iGPS provide improved asset visibility, billing accuracy, reduced loss, and helps companies comply with industry requirements like Sarbannes-Oxley.  iGPS RFID solutions are also being used by The Sunny Delight Beverages Co., a leading producer of juice drinks including brands including SunnyD citrus punch, FruitSimple fruit smoothies, Fruit2O flavored waters, and Veryfine juice drinks. 

To improve the distribution of its products, Ringnes, a subsidiary of the Carlsberg Group and Norway's largest brewery and supplier of bottled water and carbonated drinks, is using an EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID system to track the beverage containers it ships to retailers and as they return from distributors. Surely influenced by its view of ‘a smarter planet’, Ringnes teamed with IBM to source and deploy its RFID infrastructure. RFID Journal covered this news in a detailed case study.

Another area that RFID is being used is beer keg tracking.  Keeping this discussion away from college parties, game-day tailgating and backyard barbecues and instead, focusing on the number of kegs used and returned by bars and restaurants, it may surprise you that over fifty million of these reusable containers are lost or damaged each year.  To combat this loss, several companies have implemented RFID-enabled keg tracking solutions.  A few examples follow.

New Belgium Brewing Co. has implemented Fluensee AssetTrack™ to track the aluminum-and-steel kegs used to distribute the beers it produces at its brewery in Fort Collins, Colo.  The RFID system not only allows New Belgium to track keg location and status, but also provides key customer metrics such as fill-to-fill cycle times and distributor keg turn rates.

Scottish and Newcastle, a subsidiary of Heineken, is using the InteliTap RFID keg tracking and management system to keep track of 2.1 million kegs.  InteliTap is also working with other major brewers including Carlsberg UK and Molson Coors.

So, the next time you tip back a tall frosty beer (origins dating back to the 6th millennium BC), sip your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon (first plantings in the 18th century), fill up a fountain drink (Coca-Cola was invented in 1886), serve your kids a SunnyD (first manufactured in 1964), or contemplate what next year’s favorite flavor is going to be, share your thoughts about how technologies like RFID have impacted your beverage choices.  You’ll be the hit of the party – I promise.  Or, you can share them with us.  We’d like to hear from you.

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