For more than 40 years, we’ve been on the scene at many of the world’s largest breweries. We’ve provided products, services and expertise to clean, keep boilers and coolers operating efficiently, bottling lines running smoothly, and reduce water and energy use. We’ve also helped breweries treat, recycle and reuse wastewater.
Perhaps most important, we’ve helped breweries deliver what they — and their customers — want most: consistent taste. Our clean-in-place (CIP) cleaners and sanitizers — and the expertise and technology our Food & Beverage (F&B) teams bring to the task of cleaning the inside of kettles, tanks, pipes and valves without having to take them apart — have long helped mega-breweries banish soils that can mar the flavors of their ales and lagers.
Today, we serve more than 1,200 brewery customers in every region around the world. And now, we’re bringing our know-how to an exciting new segment of the beer business: craft brewing, where growth is exploding, particularly in the U.S., as consumers demand new flavors and greater variety.
“Ecolab typically pursues big corporate customers, but we saw the growth of craft brewing, with some operations getting to millions of dollars in sales, and we realized we should pay attention,” said F&B Marketing Manager Pablo Segovia. “Then the challenge was to scale down our offering for the big breweries to make it compelling for the small ones.”
“Many craft brewers were home brewers first,” said Matt Bilski, Ecolab senior chemist. “They know cleaning their equipment is important, but they may think they can clean like they did at home when they were brewing in a five-gallon bucket. That can lead to quality problems.”
“It really helps that we enjoy what we do, we know brewing and we can talk the talk with our customers.”
Chad Thompson, Senior Program Leader, Food & Beverage Research, Development & Engineering
And quality issues can be costly. “If a craft brewery loses a batch of beer because of poor cleaning in the tank, it stands to lose a serious piece of income,” said Charles Hipp, Institutional marketer for the microbrewery segment in the U.S. “There’s no way to get it back.”
It was clear that craft brewers could benefit from the same solutions we provide to mega-breweries. For example, our cleaners and sanitizers, conveyor lubricants and water treatments could meet their needs — if they could be delivered in drums or gallon jugs instead of tanker trucks. Our CIP expertise also could help deliver quality products and our Pest Elimination services could keep rodents and insects at bay. And at brew pubs, with both kitchens and brew kettles, we could help ensure great beer and safe food.
Scaling products to craft size was one step. Organizing to ensure that we could provide our legendary personalized service to smaller breweries was another. Collaboration was the answer: Combine F&B’s brewery solutions and expertise with Institutional’s on-the-ground field service, extending our traditional on‑site service at restaurants to brew pubs and smaller breweries.
For brothers Nathan and Michael Ziulkowski , the Institutional-F&B partnership became a family affair. When Nathan, a sales development manager who spends his days introducing Ecolab to Chicago-area customers for Institutional, started knocking on the doors of craft brewers, he enlisted Michael, an F&B district manager who knows the brewery business, to go along. “Michael and I called on a number of craft brewers together and he taught me a lot,” said Nathan. And Michael benefitted too. “In some cases, I made the sale, but the breweries were big enough that Michael and F&B could serve them better than Institutional,” said Nathan.
Well before he started selling to craft brewers, Nathan and his wife made a hobby of trying out new craft breweries. Now, he’s excited to help them succeed with Ecolab’s support. “There are a lot of companies out there trying to sell to them, but once they use our products, they say, ‘Holy cow, I’m saving a lot of money, I’m saving a lot of water and I’m getting better results than I’ve ever gotten.’ That’s really cool because if we help them when they’re small, they’ll be glad to see us when they’re big.”
A HEADY BLEND: BEER and our style of service
It’s not unusual for friendships to take root between our field representatives and their customers. But the brewery business — especially the craft segment — provides a special atmosphere for lasting relationships.
“Brewers are relationship people,” said Matt Bilski, an F&B senior chemist who often works with brewmasters to help solve issues from achieving consistent product quality to keeping conveyor lines moving smoothly with less water, even as bottles are filled at a rate of 1,200 a minute and cans at 2,200 a minute. “They want to go out after work and have a beer.”
Institutional’s Nathan Ziulkowski quickly saw the power of relationships in the craft-brewing segment. During his first visits to Chicago-area craft houses, he had to introduce Ecolab. But after showing a few small brewers what our solutions could do, he was astonished.
Delivering Consistent Taste
In addition to the never-ending challenge to deliver consistent taste, the world’s megabreweries also face daunting demands to conserve water and operate efficiently.
Ecolab brings a unique blend of water management, clean-in-place (CIP) expertise and conveyor lubrication to help these breweries. While our Food & Beverage business supports consistent quality with CIP chemistries and provides dry lubricants to quickly move bottles and cans on packaging conveyors with less water, our Nalco Water business treats incoming water and helps identify and implement strategies to reuse it for heating, cooling and other processes.
“Now, with the recent introduction of 3D TRASAR™ Technology for CIP, we’re able to help our customers monitor and improve CIP, achieve sustainability goals and ensure quality and safety,” said Philip Zinth, marketing manager, Food & Beverage Europe.
At Carlsberg brewing plants, where Ecolab associate Stefan Naten has led teams in installing the technology, customers are seeing benefits. “We saw immediately the benefit of a tool that gives feedback on CIP on the spot,” said Carlsberg Senior Manager of Technology Ronald Brand. “Furthermore, it helps the brew master sleep well at night knowing all CIP processes are being monitored.”
Pictured First: Matt Bilski, Senior Chemist, Food & Beverage Research, Development & Engineering, and Michael Ziulkowski, District Manager, Food & Beverage
Pictured second: Chad Thompson, Senior Program Leader, Food & Beverage Research, Development & Engineering; Damian McConn, Head Brewer, Summit Brewing Company; and Nathan Ziulkowski, Sales Development Manager, Institutional