11 February 2022

Heineken to close the Belgian Opwijk production site

Belgium | For years, the Opwijk production site, where the Affligem brand is brewed, has been threatened with closure. Now Heineken is getting serious and said the 400,000 hl production site, some 20 km northwest of Brussels, will be shuttered this summer. According to the Dutch brewer, it is too small and fails to reach environmental benchmarks.

Heineken plans to transfer production to several other Belgian and French breweries. Affligem beer for sale in Belgium and the Netherlands will be brewed at Heineken’s major brewery in Alken, Belgium. The rest of production will be relocated to France. The eleven people currently employed at the Opwijk brewery will be offered jobs at Heineken’s sites in Belgium, including the Stassen cidery and the Albert Maltings.

The cost-cutters have their say

Like AB-InBev, Heineken is keen to realise production efficiency and flexibility. While Heineken’s previous CEO, Jean-François van Boxmeer, resisted calls to close the Opwijk brewery, its current leadership does not want to faff around with smaller plants. Besides, Opwijk is not even a full-blown brewery since it does not have its own packaging facilities.

Hence Heineken’s explanation, as to why it decided to close the site, rings a bit hollow. According to Sebastiaan De Meester, spokesperson for Alken-Maes, the Belgian subsidiary of Heineken, the Opwijk plant would require a significant investment to make it more sustainable. “Opwijk takes up 40 percent more water and emits 60 percent more CO2 than the group’s other plants, Mr De Meester told the Belgian newspaper De Tijd.

Presumably, the 2 million hl Alken brewery, which handles a lot of returnable bottles, uses far more water in absolute figures than the Opwiik plant. But who are we to argue?

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