Optimize Beer Bottle Return Chain – Dutch Brewers Association



Company Name / Department Dutch Brewers Association
Contact Person

Eric Veldwiesch, Marco Willemars

Location Online, field work
Study programme(s) OML
Community CDT
Start Date February 2024
Housing arranged by company No


160 euro per month (based on a 18h week. If you work more hours, it’ll be higher).

Company Description

The Dutch Brewers Association (Nederlandse Brouwers) is the branch organization for the biggest 14 brewers of the Netherlands. Together they produce 95% of all the beer for the Dutch market. Our most well-known members are Heineken, AbInbev, Grolsch and Swinkels Family Brewers, but also large MKB-companies like Gulpener, are member.

In the way to become a fully sustainable and circular sector, we are working together on sustainability topics of which circular packaging is an industry best practice. Together we run a system of refillable/ reusable glass bottles, the most sustainable packaging for the retail market.

Project Description


The Dutch beer market has a long tradition of circular supply chain cooperation. Since the introduction in 1985, brewers are sharing a commonly managed reusable bottle, the “BNR30cl”, with a capability of 40 reuses in its lifetime. As a result, the bottle return chain has been simple, effective and very sustainable. A packaging best practice to be proud of.

From 2005, brewers have drifted away from the standard bottle and have introduced individually branded bottles. Additionally the grown popularity of specialty beers, has increased the number of specialty beer bottles in the market.

Problem description

Around 75-80% of the bottles sold to the consumer via the supermarkets are sold in (mostly branded) crates. The remaining 20-25% are sold in packs (4/6/…) or loose. Part of these are shipped to the retailer in crates, but a big part is also carried to the shop without ‘a pocket’. This leads to a significant flow of empty crates to and from the retailer. As there is no central coordination, there is an increasing imbalance between the share of bottles and pockets between the brewers and the supply chain partners.

Goals of the Project

The objective of this project is to optimize this balance in empty crate and bottles, in order to identify gaps and opportunities in the current supply chain and to recommend improvements to the allocation of bottles and empty crates between brewers and retailer DCs.


An return chain recommendation that can be used by the brewers to determine a fair and optimized allocation of ‘pockets by retail DC’, and a model and process for future use. Based on:

An inventory, of current flows of empty crates and bottles.

A cost/benefit and gaps & opps analysis of the current flows.

    Essential Student Knowledge

    FMCG, supply chain processes, affinity with retail store/DC processes, strong analytical (excel) and project management skills.

    More information: escf@tue.nl 




    Dutch Brewers Association