Now in its 91st year in business, maltster Muntons plc is demonstrating the benefits of diversification and being green. John Silcox talks to Dr Nigel Davies, Muntons’ manufacturing and technical director to find out more about the cash savings, market opportunities and industry awards this strategy is hauling in.
Perhaps best known to consumers for producing market-leading homebrew beer kits, malt manufacturer Muntons plc has made another recent foray – into wine making.
“Our wine kits can’t sell quick enough,” says Dr Nigel Davies, manufacturing and technical director of the long-standing manufacturer of “World class malts”. “Since the recession, there has been a huge upturn in demand for homemade products so we expanded our range of beer kits to include wine kits to feed the market. At around 50p per bottle it’s cheap – and tastes great!”
Far from being a one-off, it’s this type of alternative thinking that is the mark of the Suffolk based company’s approach. Thanks to innovative diversification and sustainable management, it has grown since its inception in 1921 to become an important player in the international malt market. Now in its 91st year in business, maltster Muntons plc is demonstrating the benefits of diversification and being green.
John Silcox talks to Dr Nigel Davies, Muntons’ manufacturing and technical director to find out more about the cash savings, market opportunities and industry awards this strategy is hauling in. Muntons employs 285 workers worldwide, with bases in the UK, USA and Asia.
The heart of its operations is two malting plants which produce 200,000 tonnes of malt per year, situated in Stowmarket in Suffolk – the group’s headquarters – and Bridlington in Yorkshire. These are strategic locations chosen for their proximity to the best areas for growing cereal – primarily barley – from which the raw material for malt is derived.
“To produce malt is relatively simple,” says Davies. “Cereal grain is soaked in water for two days, germinated in cool conditions for four days and then roasted in a kiln. During this, enzymes that are found naturally in the grain help transform all starches into sugar which combine with amino acids derived from proteins. This is what gives malt its characteristic flavours that finally develop during the kilning process.”
“Barley and wheat flakes used in bread making are developing sectors and chopped malt, called kibbling, is becoming a very popular nut alternative, offering a similar taste and consistency without the allergy risks” – Dr Nigel Davies, Manufacturing and Technical director, Muntons
A global name in malt
“Malt is a key ingredient for the beer-brewing and whisky distillation industries, two sectors that represent nearly 50 per cent of Muntons’ business, the other half being food, other beverages and malted ingredients.” In line with escalating exports from these key sectors Muntons too has become an international player. “UK trade represents half of sales, with countries in the European Union and the rest of the world picking up approximately 15 per cent and 35 per cent respectively,” explains Davies.
Considering the challenge Munton’s has had to keep up with, and benefit from, this trend for overseas growth Davies says, “It could be said that malting is still essentially the same as 50 years ago,” says Davies. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for innovation.”
Food and malt products are big growth areas for the company, especially in the Asian market where malted drinks similar to Horlicks or Milo are hugely popular and consumed cold. From its Thailand research centre, Muntons is carrying out work to develop products adapted to the market. In the UK and Europe, products destined for the bakery industry are very profitable and the company has doubled the size of its milling operations since 2009.
Davies says: “Barley and wheat flakes used in bread making are developing sectors and chopped malt, called kibbling, is becoming a very popular nut alternative, offering a similar taste and consistency without the allergy risks.”
In December 2010, Muntons won an award for its cocoa-substitute ingredient Maltichoc, which can be used to enhance the flavour of chocolate in baked goods.
A green approach
In addition to demonstrating a pro-active approach to product and market diversification for competitive edge Muntons has truly taken on board the necessity and the potential benefits to be derived from creating an environmentally sustainable business. The company was recently ranked 13 in The Sunday Times Green List 2011 and won the Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year category at the RBS-sponsored Manufacturer of the
Year Awards 2011.
RBS relationship director Michael Hubbert says he was delighted for his customer and comments: “It is brilliant to reward all the hard work Muntons has put in to promoting sustainable manufacturing. It really is an inspiration for others to see a company profit from being green.”
Central to Muntons’ environmental approach is the idea of ‘practical sustainability’. “This means more than simply calculating emissions on a company scale and producing PR friendly models,” says Davies. “We want to get out there and do things that will make a real difference.”
“Since the recession, there has been a huge upturn in demand for homemade products so we expanded our range of beer kits to include wine kits to feed the market. At around 50p per bottle it’s cheap – and tastes great!” – Dr Nigel Davies
Muntons focuses heavily on energy saving and now uses 12% less energy than in 1999. But instead of making costly investments in new machinery in the current financial climate – a new 100,000-tonne capacity malting plant would cost £50 million – the company searches for ways to operate facilities more effectively. By carefully monitoring its systems it identifies potential savings, and by tweaking operations, changing recipes and developing alternative production methods, Muntons has slashed its energy consumption.
“Last year, we spent £100,000 on energy-saving software and new metering systems, which have already paid for themselves in savings,” says Davies. “Now, that’s a slap in the face for all those who say that green doesn’t pay!” By going out and opening dialogues with their suppliers and customers, Muntons is also developing alternative solutions and reducing its carbon footprint while improving business links.
Davies explains: “Last year, I showed the British Society of Baking that by changing a tiny proportion of flour used to make bread rolls, you reduce cooking times. Cutting two minutes per bake for someone making 8,000 rolls a day saves £7,000 a year. Tell somebody they can save 17 per cent carbon emissions and they’ll probably switch off. But when you talk hard cash, they know what it means.”
Davies says that the key to improving environmental policies is education – which starts with the training of his own staff. Each employee receives environmental education and there is an extra pay bonus tied into achieving environmental targets. In addition, Melissa Abbott, Muntons’ grain value chain specialist, is dedicated to going out into the field, organising meetings with famers and suppliers to develop sustainable solutions together.
Davies explains: “In the past five years, we have concentrated on making ourselves more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Awards are very important, not only to showcase the successful environmental policies of the winners, but also to enable other companies taking part to pinpoint areas where they didn’t score so well and to take action.”
“RBS is right to sponsor this kind of event,” adds Davies. “RBS has been with us for 10 years and our main bank for five years. This longstanding relationship is important because RBS understands us inside out and can deliver specially tailored solutions.”