AB InBev bets on hi-tech natural barley cultivars to boost beer-making capacity

SOUTH AFRICA – Anheuser Busch InBev (AB InBev), world’s largest brewer is seeking to introduce a new barley cultivar from South Africa to boost its production.

Kadie, the barley variety has a high-yield potential, a high percentage of kernel plumpness and ripens quicker than other varieties in dry lands.

“It’s quick, it’s short and has the X-factor,” Daniel de Klerk, a barley breeder at the research institute, said of the new variety.

According to reports by Reuter’s, Kadie might be considered for use in production of the AB InBev’s flagship brand Budweiser and if successfully tested could become the first African barley variety used for the popular American brew.

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Also, South African Breweries is betting on the new drought-resistant barley variety to help it maintain record annual production in its big domestic beer market and meet demand elsewhere on the continent.

“No barley, no beer. So, absolutely critical to have a sustainable supply chain of barley,” said Josh Hammann, Africa director for agriculture development and sustainability at AB InBev in Africa.

Scientists say dryer conditions in SA due to global warming could diminish barley production in Caledon, the country’s main growing area, where AB InBev also converts barley into malt at its flagship 180,000-tonne factory.

Malt is imported from Europe when local production volumes do not meet quality parameters or if there is a crop failure due to drought.

But the long-term plan is to eventually export larger quantities of malt as barley harvests yield more, with Africa the main export target market, said company officials.

By using drought-resistant barley and improved agronomics, Hammann said AB InBev surpassed a target of reaching 475,000 tonnes of barley output by 2021, with a record harvest of 560,000 tonnes achieved in the 2020 season when rains were good.

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“It’s very important for us as AB InBev to localise our production and our raw materials … to help mitigate against global risks,” Hammann said.

AB InBev’s researchers are also experimenting with new maize, sorghum and cassava crop cultivars to meet burgeoning spirit brewing prospects in Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique.

Keeping to its true nature of introducing new innovative offerings, the beer maker recently introduced South Africa’s first double malt beer dubbed Castle Double Malt.

The new offering joins the Castle family comprising of Castle Lager, Castle alcohol free Lager, Castle Lite and Castle Milk Stout.

Making a bold statement of its pride of the local heritage, Castle Double Malt brings a perfect union of flavour and refreshment by combining two carefully selected malts from Caledon and Alrode, giving rise to a superior lager.

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