Coopers Brewery is undertaking a $20 million capital expansion program in 2013 as a result of continued sales growth and its contract brewing arrangements with international brewers Sapporo and Carlsberg.
The program includes doubling the size of the brewery’s existing lager cellar, the installation of a second bottling line and two additional fermenters.
Initial work on the lager cellar expansion will begin shortly, with the second bottling line expected to be installed by November.
As with the existing bottling line, the new line will have a capacity of 1200 bottles a minute and will be dedicated for Coopers’ traditional products, including Pale Ale, Sparkling Ale, Mild Ale and Stout, which make up more than 70% of production.
The existing bottling line will then be used for the other beers produced at Coopers, including the lager range incorporating Sapporo and Carlsberg, and other packaging formats.
Coopers’ Managing Director, Dr Tim Cooper, said local council approval to expand the lager cellar had been received and contractors had been appointed to undertake the work, which involves a small extension to the overall brewery building.
Dr Cooper said the expansion followed continued growth in beer sales and a strong profit performance in the 2011-12 financial year.
In the 12 months to June 30, 2012, Coopers’ turnover rose 7.6% to a record $186.3 million, while after tax profit reached a record $27.2 million, up 18% on the $23 million in 2010-2011.
In calendar year 2012, Coopers sales grew by 9.7% to 68.8 million litres, compared to 62.7 million litres in calendar year 2011.
This was boosted by record sales in the last six months of 2012.
“In the six months to December 31, 2012, beer sales jumped by 13.6% on the same period in 2011,” Dr Cooper said.
“Our international brands, Sapporo, Carlsberg and Kronenbourg 1664 accounted for nearly half of this increase.
“Certainly the publicity surrounding our 150th anniversary has also had a major impact on sales. Coopers has achieved positive recognition for becoming the largest Australian-owned brewery, with our sales volume now securely above 4% of the national volume.
“Colourful new packaging for our traditional ale range, which makes our products more easily recognisable in the market-place, has also assisted with sales.
“The results for our anniversary year were very gratifying, especially given the current economic situation where national beer sales overall have continued to fall for a third consecutive year.”
Dr Cooper said the work on fermentation and the lager cellar expansion would cost about $3.5 million and provide Coopers with additional capacity for the growth in lager production. The two additional fermenters are currently being installed, taking the total number of fermenters at the brewery to 24.
Dr Cooper said negotiations were currently underway with specialist suppliers for the equipment needed for the second bottling line, with contracts expected to be signed early this year.
He said a second line would reduce down-time and provide Coopers with enough additional capacity to cope with continued growth in the foreseeable future.
The establishment of the second bottling line is expected to cost around $16.5 million, inclusive of civil works and services.