How going green sparked an era of innovation at East Anglian brewer Adnams

Adnams Distribution Centre 10 years

Adnams Distribution Centre 10 years - Credit: Archant

When Adnams decided to move its distribution centre out of the middle of Southwold over a decade ago, its directors challenged themselves to do something different.

Adnams chief executive Andy Wood

Adnams chief executive Andy Wood - Credit: Archant

Tapping into a growing movement for companies to consider their ecological impact, and driven by rising fuel prices, the brewery chose a disused gravel pit in nearby Reydon as its site, and set about creating one of the most energy-efficient buildings of its kind.

Swapping steel beams for wood, and bricks for hemp lime and chalk blocks, the £5.7m centre included features such as an insulating living roof of plants, toilets flushed with rainwater and solar power cells to heat the water supply.

Ten years after it opened, Adnams is still reaping the benefits from its investment – in financial terms from reducing waste, and reputational terms from going green, but also from the wave of innovation and creativity it has sent through the business, said Andy Wood, chief executive of the EDP/EADT Top100 company.

'It has made us more efficient, and it's made us more innovative.The business gained a lot of confidence in the steps that we took: it helped us in our product development.

The 18-tonne truck Diesel Dynamics Ltd has converted to use natural gas for Adnams

The 18-tonne truck Diesel Dynamics Ltd has converted to use natural gas for Adnams - Credit: Archant

'Many of our products now have their genesis in the confidence we gained from being an innovative business, and customers come to us now because we have that story to tell,' he said.

'We didn't think that it would make us the innovative business that we are today.'

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Building an eco-friendly distribution centre added around 20% to the final cost – something which had raised eyebrows.

'We projected our returns and what we had to do to pay for this, because it's all about return on investment,' said Mr Wood, adding that the building broke even in year seven.

'That's longer than a typical business would look at. This was in the 2000s, when people were looking for quick returns – but we've been here 140 years.'

Despite that, Mr Wood dismisses suggestions that considering the environmental impact might be a luxury others cannot afford.

As well as saving money on heating and cooling, the distribution centre sparked other new ideas.

Adnams has since upgraded its brewery, modifying processes to capture the steam it produces and use it to heat the next brew, adding an anaerobic digester on site to recycle its food waste into natural gas and calculating the carbon footprint of its products.

That has included asking suppliers to make changes in their processes.

'What we've been able to do is ask an intelligent question of our supply chain and encourage our supply chain to behave in a more sustainable way,' said Mr Wood.

'That's a win-win as ultimately you build stronger relationships and you take cost out of the supply chain.'


Adnams has teamed up with a Future50 company to trial a way of reducing harmful emissions from its vehicle fleet.

Diesel Dynamics Ltd, based at Hethel Engineering Centre, has converted an 18-tonne truck to run on natural gas produced by Adnams' on-site anaerobic digester.

Although still at the trial stage, the savings achieved by the vehicle have been significant, according to DDL operations director George Kohler.

'In CO2 we have seen a reduction of 9%, and in nitrogen oxide we have seen a reduction of 63%. That means a fuel cost saving of 22%,' he said.

'The benefits are three-fold. We can make a cost saving on fuel - a minimum of 10% is what we guarantee, although we can comfortably achieve more than that. But we can also cut the carbon footprint, and improve air quality by reducing nitrogen oxide.'

The 18-tonne truck Diesel Dynamics Ltd has converted to use natural gas from Adnams