Red Stripe suspends bottle returns
Noting that its bottle supplies were back to normal levels, Red Stripe Jamaica has suspended its bottle returns programme, effective January 16.
“It was not working,” said a source who operates a medium-sized liquor store in Kingston, explaining that the way the policy operated served to curtail supplies to regular customers like himself.
Under the ‘full for empty’ programme, buyers would have to return empty bottles to receive new supplies of beer.
“The empty bottle has to come back to Red Stripe, especially with them raising the price to $30,” said the liquor trader, who requested anonymity to avoid potentially rattling his supplier, since Red Stripe controls the bulk of the beer market.
Red Stripe Jamaica increased the price it collects empties to $20 in 2019 and then to $30 in September 2022.
“There’s a lot of people who want $820 to return a case of empties in Jamaica. But when you restrict wholesalers from getting their supplies it’s bad for business. I have orders months ago still not filled,” said a trader who runs a bar in Kingston.
Red Stripe Jamaica’s returns policy aimed to address an ongoing global shortage of glass bottles due to supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. The brewery wanted consumers to return empties of Red Stripe, Heineken, Guinness, Dragon Stout, Smirnoff Ice and Malta bottles for recycling. The brewery previously said that it can recycle glass six times without it losing its purity.
The policy was expanded in August 2022 to include previously exempt channels such as supermarket chains, independent supermarkets, convenience stores, as well as hotels. It meant that on the surface, entities seeking to replenish beer with new stock would need to return an equal amount of empties.
“Thanks to the cooperation of our customers and consumers, our bottle supply is now sufficient to allow for suspension of the requirement for retailers/wholesalers to purchase D&G products in quantities equivalent to the number of empties returned,” said Red Stripe Jamaica’s Commercial Head, Sean Wallace, in a press release.
The brewery, however, urged consumers to continue returning bottles in order to maintain a revolving supply and do what is right for the environment.