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Red Stripe pumps $2b into brewing capacity

Beer maker Desnoes & Geddes Limited, which trades as Red Stripe Jamaica, has pumped more than $2 billion into the reconfiguration of its plant, specifically the area called the cellars, to produce more of the brew.

It represents a 34 per cent increase in production capacity that puts the Kingston-based brewery, the maker of Red Stripe beer, in a position to output up to one million hectolitres of beer annually.

The new cellars were officially launched on Tuesday, but has been in use since November 2022, following the installation of new fermenting storage tanks.

The project was executed over three to four years, starting with the procurement of equipment in 2019. The brewery’s capex projects engineer and local project lead, Trecia Campbell-Sharpe, said the project cost EUR13.6 million, which translates to just under $2.2 billion in local currency.

Campbell-Sharpe said the old tanks had been in use since 1928, when the company first brewed the iconic beer. Each of the six new fermenting storage tanks holds 5,250 hectolitres, which is equivalent to 1.5 million bottles of beer, she said.

In addition, 10 existing multipurpose tanks were overhauled and repurposed to function as ‘bright beer’ tanks, where the beer is no longer being fermented but is almost ready to be bottled.

The expansion projected included the modification of existing vertical tanks to make them more efficient at storing beer; the installation of new storage tanks for processing and upgrade of the cleaning system for the tanks; the expansion of the carbon dioxide, CO2, collection system; and more cooling capacity for the upgraded fermenting and bright beer tanks.

As such, Red Stripe Managing Director Luis Prata described the project as being more than one just focused on numbers. It “symbolises our commitment to sustainability, the Jamaican market and our confidence in its continued growth,” he said during the ceremony to formally launch the facility on Tuesday.

Under the transformation, the former cellars that once housed 20 fermenting tanks, laid out horizontally in a covered building with a huge cooling system to maintain constant temperature, has been transformed into an open-air space with tanks that are about 10 storeys tall and sit on a quarter of the space formerly occupied by the old tanks in the cellars.

Red Stripe, a leading company employing just over 300 full-time employees, is the sole producer of beer in Jamaica and the dominant player, in which Red Stripe beer holds the majority of the market amid imported brands.

The brewery declined to comment on its current market share, saying it was in a quiet period for first quarter reporting, and “unable to disclose or discuss anything related to market share,” Dianne Ashton-Smith said.

The company, which is owned by Heineken International, bottles beer for its parent for local distribution. It also bottles and distributes its Dragon and foreign brand Guinness.

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