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MALT INDUSTRY: OVERVIEW OF THE CURRENT CONTEXT

27 September 2018

green rye field at sunrise

In our long and exploratory foodie history, many techniques were elaborated to transform various indigenous kinds of grains. Information was retrieved that beer might have been around for an astonishing 5,000 years! Indeed, the Sumerians were already understanding the malting process and concocting food and beverages from it.

Through the years, malting became a common process among different cultures, and it’s still true today. Anywhere in the world, people enjoy products derived from malt, whether it’s beer, malt liquor such as whiskey, candies, vinegar and even some type of dairy consumables like fermented milk or milkshakes. What is going on in today’s malt industry and what is required from the maltsters?




THE WEIGHT OF MALTING BARLEY

Malt is a large family of processed cereals that is composed of different market-adapted variants: malt for beers and brewers (in which we can find standard malts as well as specialty malts), malt for distilling and malt for food applications. Cereals that suit particularly well to this practice are wheat, rye, sorghum, and barley. The latter is now the most popular grain to be submitted to the malting process.

In 2015, 22 million tons of malt was produced: 90% of it was from barley. On 144 million tons of Barley globally produced in 2017, 108 million tons were dedicated to malting. The main reasons for its popularity among maltsters are that barley is a short-season crop, which means you can have a couple of harvests per year, and it is highly adaptable regarding soil and climate.


THE EVER-GROWING BEER MARKET

In 2017, the beer industry represented a market of 111 billion dollars. Global beer consumption grows more than 1% every year while beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage worldwide. Along with hops, malt barley is one of the main components of the fizzy beverage. Most of the malt products end up in beer production: American brewers consumed 40% of their local malt production last year.

As the number of breweries and the love of good quality beers are increasing, so is the demand for high-grade malt. Montana Department of Commerce market Analysis is clear in their report: “For the malting industry, all signs are pointing toward a shift in the supply chain. The fastest-growing segment of the craft beer industry, microbreweries, is demanding quality products sourced locally or traceable to their point of origin. The craft industry now has the collective buying power to shape the production of malt suppliers.” Craft beer market needs more ingredients, whether it’s pale or specialty malt, to produce higher quality beer. In the last couple of years, craft beer sales increased by over 6% and global export by over 4%.


HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCT ALL ALONG

Therefore, the grain is inspected in every step of the process, from the seed in the field up to the various malting stages until delivery to the brewers. To respect the high-value maltsters are thriving for, the grain must fulfill different standards to be used, such as its high germination capacity (over 98%), its variety’s purity, its water and protein property, its pesticide residue and its grading, to say the least. These characteristics and the maintenance of their value are dependent on their growing, harvesting, processing and storage conditions.

It also means that the grain-handling process needs to be flawless so that each varietal is respected and the product at the end of the line is homogeneous. Taking into consideration the fact that a single plant may handle various types of cereal, it becomes essential that the equipment is fit for the job. It isn’t only about getting the malting stages right, but mastering it’s packaging as well. If grains were to get mixed up during the making and packing process, the end product would be greatly impacted in unpleasant ways for all the beer lovers out there. 
The equipment line must quickly adapt to various types of grain, bulk densities and packaging format with an easy complete changeover to respond to the quality the market is expected.


A STRONG TREND

As the market for craft beer keeps expanding, the same trend is seen with malting barley. Market performance estimations for malt are of a 4% increase for the next decade to sustain demand. Brewers, as well as consumers, want the ingredients to be locally sourced and produced, which encourages major brewers and manufacturers to find local maltsters ready and equipped to provide them with the necessary ingredient.

A report for The Brewers of Europe conducted by Royal HaskoningDHV in 2016 stated: “European brewers are major investors in emerging countries. Beer is not just traded; European brewers commonly invest in local production with locally sourced raw materials for local brands. This contributes directly to the development and prosperity in emerging countries: through employment, investment in infrastructure, improving supply chain management, and commitment to sustainability through supplier and human rights codes, adhering to global standards.”




This market reality requires that maltsters, no matter their size or location, must be prepared to supply the demand from small and big malt-derived manufacturers. They must be able to offer different sizes of packaging to answer the demands of either small or large client. By ensuring the entire process is maximized from the field to the pallet, the maltsters will have the power to maintain the added value of their craftsmanship and deliver a flavorful, high-quality malt to all the brewers out there, for the love of beer.

Cheers!

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