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Coopers, Australia's first family of beer, invests in $49 million plant

By James Beech

Australia's family owned brewer Coopers has invested $49 million (AUD $65 million) in its future by opening what they have hailed as the most technically advanced malting plant in the world.

The six-generation brewing family based in Adelaide welcomed Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia, to officially open the new plant at its Regency Park brewery. The 13,000 sq m plant represented the largest single investment in Coopers' 155 year history, more than the$40 million cost of the Regency Park brewery in 2001. The plant was self-funded and will create an extra eight jobs.

Dr Tim Cooper, fifth-gen managing director and chief brewer, said at full capacity, the plant would produce around 54,000 tonnes of malt a year and give Coopers full control over the important raw material. Coopers will use about 17,000 tonnes of the 54,000 tonnes of malt a year in its operations, with the balance sold to domestic and export customers.

“Some of the innovations we have incorporated include full stainless-steel construction, enclosed conveyors, together with advanced process control and monitoring,” Cooper said.

“In terms of water usage, process control and automation, this is the most advanced maltings in the world.”

The new plant marked a return to the maltings business for Coopers. Between 1988 and 2002, Coopers was a majority shareholder of Adelaide Maltings until it was sold to AusBulk to help pay down debt incurred by Coopers' move from its old Leabrook brewery to Regency Park.

Australia's oldest family owned and run brewery started when Thomas Cooper, originally of Yorkshire in England, brewed his first batch of ale from an old family recipe in 1862. The company prides itself on its “natural conditioning” as a point of difference in brewing, which eliminates the need for pasteurisation, additives or preservatives.

Dr Cooper, who practised medicine in UK hospitals before joining the family business, serves on the board with fellow fifth-gens Glenn Cooper, Melanie Cooper and James Cooper plus three independents.

Sixth-gen Andrew Cooper (33), son of chairman Glenn Cooper, became national account manager at Coopers' distribution firm, Premium Beverages in Melbourne, in late 2017. However, Dr Cooper told Australian Brews News Coopers made it clear to all family members they were not guaranteed jobs at the brewery just because they were a Cooper.

“They are encouraged to develop careers outside the brewery, but if an opportunity arises, then they may be invited to join,” he said.

The family business funds, and Melanie governs, the Coopers Brewery Foundation, a registered charity which supports medical research, health care, youth education and aged care among its social causes.

The Coopers business reported continued sales growth and the introduction of Carlsberg Mid to its international portfolio in 2015–16.

Total beer sales rose 3.3% for the year to a record 81.5 million litres, the 23rd consecutive year of improvement, which represented a compound annual growth rate of 9.2%.

Total revenue for 2015–16 reached $245.9 million, up 4.6% from the previous year. After tax profit decreased by 16.3% to $24.2 million. The decrease was put down in part to the underperforming range of craft beer made for Coopers' US sister company Mr Beer.